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Orpheus (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

4.8 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

This 1950 update of the Orphic myth by Jean Cocteau (Beauty and the Beast) depicts a famous poet (Jean Marais) scorned by the Left Bank youth, and his love for both his wife Eurydice (Marie Déa) and a mysterious princess (Maria Casarès). Seeking inspiration, the poet follows the princess from the world of the living to the land of the dead through Cocteau’s famous mirrored portal. Orpheus represents the legendary Cocteau at the height of his abilities for peerless visual poetry and dreamlike storytelling.

Special Features

New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack

Audio commentary by French film scholar James Williams

Jean Cocteau: Autobiography of an Unknown, a 1984 feature-length documentary

Video piece from 2008 featuring assistant director Claude Pinoteau on the special effects in the film

40 Minutes with Jean Cocteau, an interview with the director from 1957

In Search of Jazz, a 1956 interview with Cocteau on the use of jazz in the film

La villa Santo-Sospir, a 16 mm color Cocteau film from 1951

Gallery of images by French film portrait photographer Roger Corbeau

Raw newsreel footage of the Saint-Cyr military academy ruins, a location used in the film

Theatrical trailer

PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by author Mark Polizzotti, selected Cocteau writings on the film, and an essay on La villa Santo-Sospir by Williams


Product Details

  • Actors: Jean Marais, Francois Perier, Maria Casares, Marie Dea, Henri Cremieux
  • Directors: Jean Cocteau
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Unrated
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: August 30, 2011
  • Run Time: 95 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B005152CBE
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,939 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
Jean Cocteau pulls out his usual bag of tricks to create a film that rivals his magnificent Beauty and the Beast (1946). Both films are masterpieces which deserve your undivided attention--especially on blu-ray where the blacks are black and the whites are white and mirrors are the doorways to unreality and back again in a gray-warp of unintentional mystery....Get it....
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Format: Blu-ray
In French cinema, there are many filmmakers named Jean Renoir, Jean Vigo, Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Pierre Melville, to name a few. But among these filmmakers who really never craved the spotlight was Jean Cocteau. A proud man with humility and creative talent that extends beyond cinema.

Before Cocteau was a playwright, a screenwriter, a director...he was one of the most prestigious, talented poets living in France.

At a young age, similar to Jean Vigo who suffered through pain throughout his childhood after the death of his father, Jean Cocteau lived a different life. Coming from a prominent family, like Vigo, at a young age, Jean Cocteau lost his father (who committed suicide).

Where a filmmaker like Vigo had cinema at a young age to escape reality, Cocteau had poetry.

In fact, his first volume of poems titled "Aladdin's Lamp" was created at the age of 19 and would eventually become popular through his poetry.

But it was World War I which changed Cocteau. He would meet poet Guillaume Apollinaire, artist Pablo Picasso and Amedeo Modigliani and would later collaborate with many talents which include Russian choreographer Sergei Diaghilev, who persuaded the poet to write a scenario for his ballet "Parade" in 1917.

As one of the great poets, the introduction to writing for a ballet would lead him to writing and directing plays but also novels. Among the novels he is known for are "Les Enfants Terribles" (1929), "The Blood of the Poet" (1930), "Les Parents Terribles" (1948), "Beauty and the Beast" (1946) and "Orpheus" (1949).
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By Fred on February 3, 2012
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
I hadn't seen this in years, I have it on VHS but don't have use of a VHS player(too lazy to hook it up, plus no HDMI output etc)... so it's strange to watch this now. Cocteau used his typically novel film techniques to the point of humor sometimes, but this movie exhibits a couple of his most famous scenes that shouldn't be missed by those who love film history. I won't even go into the story/theme why spoil it completely? If you like "art" films then check it out. Ultimately this is a romantic film in nature with Cocteau once again weaving an otherworldly spell of sorts upon the world of cinema. 5 stars simply because it is unique for those who have patience.
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Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
***SPOILER ALERT***
Cinematic poet Jean Cocteau explored the myth of Orpheus on no fewer than three occasions: Le Sang d'Un Poete (Blood of a Poet, 1930), Orphee (Orpheus, 1949) and Le Testament d'Orphee (1960). This second of his "Orpheus" trilogy stars Jean Marais in the title role. Updated to contemporary Paris (albeit a Paris never seen before or since), the story concerns a sensitive young poet named Orpheus, who is married to the lovely Eurydice (Marie Dea). Orpheus' friend Cegeste (Edouard Dermit) is killed in a traffic accident. In the hospital morgue, Cegeste's patroness, The Princess of Death (Maria Casares), revives the young man; then, both Cegeste and Princess pass into the Underworld. Back on earth, Orpheus receives cryptic messages from Cegeste's spirit, as well as nocturnal visitations from the Princess. Meanwhile, Orpheus' wife enters into an affair with Heurtebise (Francois Perier). After seeking advice on her mixed-up love life, Eurydice is herself struck down and killed by the same cyclist who snuffed out Cegeste's life. It appears to Heurtebise that the ghostly Princess has claimed Eurydice so that she, the Princess, can be free to love Orpheus. Heurtebise persuades Orpheus to accompany him into the Underworld in hopes of returning Eurydice to life. By now, however, Orpheus cares little for his wife; he is completely under the Princess' spell. Offered her own liberation from the Underworld by the powers-that-be, the Princess dolefullly agrees to restore Eurydice to life, and to never have anything to do with Orpheus again. Orpheus has weathered much controversy to take its place among the director's most acclaimed works.
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Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
Criterion has put out two films from the 1950s that pay homage to the Greek story of love and death they are named after, both by french directors: 'Orpheus', directed by Jean Cocteau (1950), and 'Black Orpheus', by Marcel Camus (1959).

Despite this, while both are based on the same mythologic legend, neither movie is remotely close to being a carbon copy of the other. In Cocteau's Orpheus, the protagonist is a well known poet in France, who while still adored by his fans seems both burnt out and willing to make fun of the young poets trying to follow in his footsteps. What could be an art-house film that makes fun of art-house culture quickly turns to its mythologic roots however, focusing on the meanings of love and death. When his wife (Eurydice) is killed, and is taken by a supernatural agent of the underworld who serves as a new jealous love interest (Maria Casares), Orpheus has to decide whether he wants to stay alive or die, and whether he wants to stay on earth or live in the underworld (and with whom). The choices carry significant weight, not only for himself but the women he loves.

Access to the underworld is quite literally through mirrors, and Cocteau employs special effects that while now dated were fairly breakthrough for the time and still work extremely well as supernatural gateways made of liquid glass. Played by handsome lead Jean Marais, the character is worthy of the original charismatic Orpheus, but the film does suffer from a lack of realistic love for Eurydice, which makes his choice between rescuing her from Hades or starting a new life seem like an obvious choice and less of a struggle. A few confusing plot elements offer much in stylization but also detract slightly from the film.
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