Black Orpheus

  • Directed by Marcel Camus
  • Brazil, 1959, 107 mins., Portuguese

Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival, Black Orpheus is a colorful, vibrant adaptation of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, set amongst the frivolity and excess of Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival. Trolley driver Orfeu, whose joyful songs are said to make the sun rise, is instantly smitten with beautiful newcomer Eurydice when she hops aboard his car. Their romantic bliss takes a dark turn, however, and soon the couple finds themselves fleeing through the frantically dancing streets, pursued all the while by Orfeu’s jilted fiancée and the masked figure of Death. Featuring a largely non-professional cast, Black Orpheus is captivating in its ingenious and freewheeling spin on the classic Greek tragedy, seamlessly weaving in a chilling macumba (black magic) ceremony, and transposing Hades’ underworld to Rio’s Bureau of Missing Persons. Shot with a captivating soundtrack full of bossa nova written by music legends Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luis Bonfá, in Black Orpheus “the mythic is simply another facet of reality, whether explicitly indexing the ancient tales or evoking the bacchic esprit of living, loving, and partying like the gods. . . [the film] may be unchallenged as a cinematic pathfinder to earthly bliss, a simple state of being where we worry about our quotidian trials less and dance a little more.”—Michael Atkinson, The Criterion Collection. In Portugese with English subtitles.

Genres: Music, Drama