Customer Reviews: Black Orpheus (The Criterion Collection)
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on July 3, 2003
When I first saw this movie in 74, I was in my early teens.
I was aware of Africa and its many different people, but I had
no idea (besides African Americans) that there were other
people of African decent, and (who looked like me)spoke a
foreign language. I was filled with even more Black Pride!
In the 80's I purchased a VCR. I inquired to a friend as to
whether I could find Black Orpheus on tape, my friend said "all
movies were on tape now." Ever since then I have had several
copys.I've shared my tapes with everyone, most of the time they
were not returned but thats alright because it meant the
person enjoyed it. Many of my friends and co-workers thought
that they would not enjoy a foreign film but were intriqued by
Black Orpheus.
I would like say in closing that for many years I've searched
for info on the cast of this movie, very little has been found.
A couple of days ago I read that Adhemar da Silva (death) had
died in '01. He was not only an actor but an outstanding Olympic
athelete of the 52-56 games. Between both games he won seven gold
medals in the triple jump. Mr.da Silva was also a lawyer.
Why do we always allow good people to go to the wayside before
we give recognition. I would definitely like to known about the
lives of the surviving actors, especially the children whom are
not that much older than I.
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on June 21, 2000
tragic love triangle story of simple,passionate people in modern day Rio De Janeiro. You will be deeply affected by the plot,unfolding during carnival time,filmed on location.Artfully blending romance and reality,while allowing the viewer to set aside the appalling poverty of Rio's favellas. The musical score is classic in its genre,the scenic ,practically birds eye,views of Rio are breathtaking,and will linger with you long after you watched the final scene. Standig out,among many memorable scenes,is the religious-spiritual ceremony,in which orpheus seeks contact with his loved one,through a clever spiritual medium. Lovers of Brazilian music are sure to enjoy a musical pearl at the beginning,played by a marching band. The movie,to me,is as powerful today,as when I first saw it,a masterful blend of passion and stark reality,based on Greek mythology.
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on July 8, 2000
Quite simply, Marcel Camus' sublime "Black Orpheus" is the best representation of the Greek myth of Eurydice and Orpheus ever attempted by an artist. By filling the romantic tragedy with the wonderful music of Brazil and the carnival in Rio de Janeiro, he uplifts the audience into a state of blissfull glee. The film, which won the Grand Prize at Cannes in 1959, is a one-of-a-kind experience, with Death (in a magnificent costume) chasing Eurydice at the Carnival and Orpheus trying to save her. The transfer is absolutely perfect, and the music by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luis Bonfa is magical, rhythmic and out of this world. It was soon after the release of this perfect film that the Bossa Nova and the Samba were introduced to the world and of course, the rest is history, and the Brazilian music is justifiably known worlwide. Here is your chance to own one of the great classics of international cinema, and one that lends itself to repeated viewings. As usual, the Criterion Collection outdoes itself, giving the world the difinitive, director's cut of "Black Orpheus." The disc also offers improved subtitle translation and remastered sound. In Portuguese with English subtitles.
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on April 29, 2000
Marcel Camus's film recreates the Orpheus tragedy with an all black cast. Set in Rio de Janiero, the film captures the beauty of Brazilian culture. Whether it is the sambadromes or the rythmns of Brazil's Afro-Lusitanian music, the beautiful score written by Antonio Jobim and Luis Bonfa has become legendary and it help led a bossa nova explosion during the 1960's (similar to our present-day Latin explosion). While everything looks fine and dandy in this film, Brazil's society, especially in Rio, is a bit more grittier, and being a Frenchman, Camus ignored the realities faced my millions of "cariocas". Interested viewers should watch the films "Pixote," and "Central Station," to get more of a feeling for life in this city, but nevertheless, Black Orpheus remmains a classic in international cinema for years to come.
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on May 10, 2013
many, many years ago when black orpheus was first shown in my medium-sized, easy and sweet city in ohio i had never seen a foreign film. one sunday evening, with nothing special to do my best friend and i drove to the first, newly-opened foreign film theatre in town to watch the strange film. it changed my life. black orpheus was laced with pulsing, dancing carnival music but it wasn't doris day and rock hudson. the city setting in downtown rio de jinero during the carnival festival was not filmed in los angeles. there was threat and ultimately death in the film but it wasn't john wayne. the children in black orpheus are essential to the story but it's not disney. the movie stunned me deeply. a short time later i quit my bank job and moved to san francisco. with one short exception i have lived on the west coast ever since ... very happily, with a much livelier flow of life. watching black orpheus again occasionally over the years reminds me of that long ago sunday evening in toledo. black orpheus is still magnificent ...
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on April 12, 2003
This fabulous film is one of the greatest ever made combining three powerful strands of the human experience. First, the basic plot is drawn from the classical Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Second, the film production is basically French drawing on a great tradition of world class, sophisticated cinema. Third, the detail elements of the story are drawn from the cultures of Africa as they were transposed to the new world.
As part of the African diaspora myself, I fell in love with this film as a college student in the 1960's. It was my first visual exposure to the black culture of Brazil. The beautiful skin, the beautiful faces, the beauty of the setting of Rio de Janiero combined to overwhelm my visual sensation, while the incredible lilting sounds of Brazilian speech seduced my aural sensibility and the rythms of samba took my heartbeat to my feet. Twenty years later on the dance floor I realized I could dance samba because I'd seen this film twice, and every time I hear samba I think of this film.
This film does not age, does not need to be remade, has never been surpassed.
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on August 20, 2014
This featured film adds not only color to an original black and white foreign film but a part that was kept out on television when Orpheus is seen in the hospital trying to find his loved one, not believing she has died. This movie I have loved since I was a teenager or as young as I can remember watching it with my mother. We have our certain parts of the movie that we repeat or say time and time again. It is a wonderful cast of actors and actresses that steal the show and do a great performance for the roles they are to portray. I used to absolutely love this movie but now that I am over 30 yrs old, I guess it doesn't have the same affect as it did back then; yet love is everlasting which is the ultimate scope of the movie that transcends on the movie screen.
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"Morning, such a pretty morning.

A new song is born,

Singing of your eyes, your laughter, your hands.

There will be a day when you come

From the strings of my guitar

That only your love sought.

A voice comes and talks about kissing,

Kisses lost in your lips.

Sing, my heart, happiness is back

In the dawn of this love."

And so Orpheus (Breno Mello), a happy-go-lucky trolley conductor in Rio de Janeiro, and Eurydice (Marpessa Dawn), a young girl from the country who has come to stay with her cousin in a Rio slum high on a mountain overlooking the city, fall in love. Please note that elements of the plot are discussed. Orpheus is handsome, confident and loves women as much as they love him. When he discovers Eurydice, however, she becomes all he has ever wanted. But Eurydice, caught up in her joy with Orpheus, still is frightened of a man masked as Death who she is convinced intends to kill her. But carnival is starting. There are costumes to buy and masks to wear, dancing to practice, life to be enjoyed. Through it all, the hot, sensual bossa nova beat of Antonio Carlos Jobin's and Luis Bonfa's music permeates everything.

The movie is so lyrical, so innocent and so joyous as it starts that it's easy to hope that in this version of the Greek myth there will be a different ending. There is not. But the intensity of carnival carries us along. The happiness and spirit of the friends and neighbors of Orpheus captures us just as much as the music. The almost child-like passion of Orpheus and Eurydice is so open and true, we realize that it can't last.

One of the most lyrical passages is early in the movie when Orpheus begins to play on his guitar a song he has written. Two scruffy little boys are with him. They believe Orpheus can make the dawn come by playing his guitar at daybreak. As Orpheus plays, one boy holds a baby goat and the other a rooster to keep them quiet. "Morning, such a pretty morning, a new song is born..." Orpheus sings. Next door, Eurydice hears him and stops to listen. In that moment the myth becomes a real thing. And Orpheus, after he and Eurydice have slept the night together, sings another song while Eurydice dreams on...

"My happiness is dreaming in the eyes of my lover.

It's like this night, passing,

Seeking the dawn.

Speak low, please,

So she might wake up happy,

Offering a kiss of love.

Sadness has no end. Happiness does.

Happiness is like a drop of dew on a flower's petal,

Brilliant and tranquil, then grieving,

Then falling like a tear of love."

Then carnival arrives, and so does Death. At the end of the movie Orpheus and Eurydice are joined for eternity. On the mountain top as dawn breaks, the two little boys bring the new sun as one plays Orpheus' guitar and Orpheus' song "...Morning, such a pretty morning. A new song is born..." They are joined by a little girl, dressed in white, who begins to dance around them, and they join her.

At this point, I didn't know whether to smile or cry. I think I did both.

The film was shot in color with wonderful views of Rio streets, nighttime carnival and the poor neighborhood where Orpheus lives. The Criterion DVD transfer looks fine. There are no significant extras. There is a brochure in the case which gives an appreciation of the film.
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on May 11, 2015

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on April 1, 2012
Criterion has put out two fine films from the 1950s that pay homage to the Greek story of love and death they are named after, both by french directors: 'Black Orpheus', by Marcel Camus (1959) and 'Orpheus', directed by Jean Cocteau (1950).

However, neither movie is even close to being a carbon copy of the other despite their shared roots in the same mythologic legend. In Camus' Black Orpheus, the protagonist is a charismatic and well known singer in a poor Brazilian hillside neighborhood who spends as much time womanizing as playing guitar. However, on the eve of his wedding (to take place on the same day as Carnival) he meets a young woman named Euridice who has come to town to stay with her cousin after being chased off of her family farm. Although the movie rarely takes a turn into the overt supernatural, it is understood that the man chasing her is "death", and although Orpheus and Euridice have never met before (at least in this lifetime), they quickly recognize themselves as historical soulmates fated to love one another. Between being chased by both "death" and Orpheus' jealous former bride, their courtship takes a tragic turn.

Using the gorgeous scenery of Brazil and the bright costumes of Carnival, one has to look hard for the mythological references to the Greek legend that the movie is based upon, but they are there (for example, a german shepherd guarding a gate is named Cerebus). The music is great, and the film is frequently cited as a harbinger of the bossanova sound to the United States in the '60s. The supporting cast is very good as well, especially two young boys who help Orpheus throughout the movie and take over his mantle at the end. As they play his old guitar as the sun rises on a new day, you are left to wonder where the new Euridice is also no doubt dancing, unaware that fate will eventually draw her to the little boy in the years to come. For a movie about life and death the film carries good feelings with it much of the time, and Euridice's cousin even provides some nice touches of comedy.

Most criticism seems to center around whether or not the poor sections of Brazil have been romanticized to the point that they hurt the film. They certainly have been idealized, there is no crime or disease about, but you also have to remember the movie is set in the days of Carnival. Even if many of the people lived in squalor for 364 days, Carnival was always seen as a joyous time that people worked towards and lived to the fullest when it came. If you don't want to take it with that grain of salt, as long as you accept that the movie is not supposed to be a social commentary on poverty you can also see why the director made such choices. The more happiness he can inject into the first part of the movie the better the contrast to death will be. Also, the costumes of Carnival allow him to give a mythologic flair to the movie without making it overtly supernatural (for example, "death" is represented by a dancer in a skeleton mask, which would have otherwise seemed downright silly). If you are offended by indigenous portrayals such as those in Black Narcissus (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] you may not enjoy this film. I respect opposing viewpoints but believe that most people will find very little to be bothered by.

Ultimately an excellent film that can transport and immerse you completely into a different time and place, even if it is primarily not real. Fun and entertaining escapism with a soundtrack as good as the movie itself.
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