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.

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  • My last room­mate intro­duced me to this a few years ago. The inevitable con­clu­sion was so dev­as­tat­ing, the sound­track is incred­i­ble, and that end­ing with the kids gets me every time.

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