Black Orpheus

A part of this viewing listCriterion Collection Spine #48: Marcel Camus’s Black Orpheus.

I tried watching this many years ago, but wasn’t in the right frame of mind to get through it. I’m glad I gave it another shot, because it’s a wonderful movie. The myth of Orpheus & Eurydice is my favorite, and it translates perfectly to Rio during Carnaval. Orpheus as the Babylon bus driver, good with the ladies, the man who makes the sun rise with his guitar playing. Eurydice, new to the city, seemingly innocent, but with something dark on her tail. Not only does the setting translate well, but the death-revenant-afterlife fits thematically with the Candomble religious practices as well.

Throughout the film, gestures and acts that would normally be passed off as simple superstition pack a bit more mythic punch, and, as it turns out, are just as efficacious diegetically. Promises and claims that, in the mundane world, would just appear to be bluster, are true tragedy as the myth unfolds. This mixing of natural and supernatural is made possible by the nearly incessant beat of music that permeates the film.

The film is so well put together, and the parallels with Brazilian culture so spot on that it would make more sense if the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice had actually originated from Brazil and not Greece. And it makes you want to dance.