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Black Orpheus

Breno Mello , Marpessa Dawn , Marcel Camus    VHS Tape
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)

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Product Description

An Academy Award®-winning retelling of the Orphic legend in a modern day setting, Black Orpheus explodes with dance, music, and magnificent color photography. The tragic love between a streetcar conductor and a shy country girl unfolds against the madness of a carnival in Rio de Janeiro, with its intoxicating samba music, frenzied dancing, and colorful costumes.


Marcel Camus's 1959 update of the Greek myth features an all-black cast and a story set in the frenetic energy of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Orpheus, a trolley car conductor and superb samba dancer, is engaged to Mira but in love with Eurydice. For his change of heart, Orpheus and his new doomed lover are pursued by a vengeful Mira and a determined Death through the feverish Carnival night. Camus at once demystifies and remystifies the old story, shifting not only its location but its tone and context, forcing a reevaluation of the legend as a more passionate, pulsing, sensual experience. The film is really one-of-a-kind, an absolute whirl that barely needs words. --Tom Keogh

Customer Reviews

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4.9 out of 5 stars
4.9 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By M. B. Alcat TOP 1000 REVIEWER
This film, directed by Marcel Camus and based on a play written by Brazilian writer Vinicius de Moraes, updates the tragic Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, setting that hauntingly beautiful and tragic story in Brazil against the vibrant backdrop provided by the Carnival of Rio de Janeiro.

In "Black Orpheus", Orpheus (Bruno Mello) is a trolley car conductor, a samba dancer and outstanding musician. He is also a womanizer who is being dragged into marriage by his latest girlfriend, Mira (Lourdes de Oliveira). Something unexpected happens, though: Orpheus meets a newcomer to Rio, Eurydice (Marpessa Dawn), and falls in love with her. Eurydice arrived to Rio seeking refuge in the house of her cousin from a stalker that wants to kill her. However, when she meets Orpheus, Eurydice also falls in love with him and his songs.

The story of the two lovers develops during the Carnival, and despite the problems provided by Mira, the discarded girlfriend, and the stalker that frights Eurydice and represents Death. The musical score, composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luis Bonfa, provides an excellent support to the story and adds just the right finishing touch. It is something that along a great plot, a wonderful cast, and a very good director, manages to make this film something that you will enjoy, remember, and probably recommend to others.

I think that this is one of the best films I have seen, and I regret the fact that is not more well-known. Of course, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Belen Alcat
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keeping the for Orpheus alive July 3 2003
Format:VHS Tape
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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Greatest films Ever Made 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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5.0 out of 5 stars The amazing film that launched bossa nova May 13 2003
It is difficult to discuss this film without focusing on the music and the spread of bossa nova throughout the world which the film facilitated. The film is as detested in Brasil as it is praised outside of Brasil, but everyone agrees the music (by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Luiz Bonfa, and Vinicius de Moraes) was groundbreaking and beautiful in its day, and remains almost mystical to this day. Let's leave it to the ethnomusicologists and cultural anthropologists to explain the meaning of bossa nova and its impact on the world from the early '60s onward. The music aside, the film is a visual feast. The opening scene has Eurydike (Marpessa Dawn) entering Rio de Janeiro from Niteroi, as the Jobim/de Moraes composition "A felicidade" plays. We see the apprehensive Eurydike experience the sensory assault that is Rio de Janeiro, and we hear all the street noise, the venders, crude percussion, ferry whistles and background chatter, and it is an amazing moment--the perfect blend of sound and image. Marpessa Dawn and Breno Mello (who plays Orpheu) are perfectly cast as the star-crossed lovers, both beautiful lead actors giving performances of quiet depth and power. There is nothing forced about their performances. The stage origins of the piece are often undisguised, especially in the entrances and exits from the scenes (in one, Eurydike's goofy cousin and the spoiled Mira jauntily skip out of the scene). Many critics have focused on how unrealistically the life of the favela is portrayed in this film, especially compared with something like "Cidade de Deus." I have never lived in a favela, but I think this film adequately conveys a portrait of favela life, without trying to become THE portrait. There is a lot of fun and laughter in the course of the film, but death comes quickly and unyieldingly. Read more ›
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars When the world was young
Very much a film of it's time but still beautiful and powerful. The music is captivating and the naiivete of the performances charming. Read more
Published on Oct. 1 2010 by Trevor Street
4.0 out of 5 stars a good film with famous music
This review is for the Criterion Collection DVD edition of the film.
This movie is credited with brining Bossa nova music into the spotlight. Read more
Published on April 23 2004 by Ted
5.0 out of 5 stars Spicy
This 1959 adaptation of the Greek myth thrilled me.It is quite rare that I am entertained by books turned into movies. Read more
Published on Oct. 20 2003 by Midori
5.0 out of 5 stars A Sad Story
This was a great film but it was sad. Eurydice is being chased by death (a dude in a death mask but the actual grim reaper) and we never know why. Read more
Published on July 12 2003 by Sal Paradise
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice Film, Bad Timing
Well, this is a well illustrated integration of a well known greek myth known as "Black Orpheus. Read more
Published on Feb. 24 2003 by Simple Hope
5.0 out of 5 stars A strange and beauiful film
Do they clean the streets in Rio De Janeiro? Well, of course they do. When this carnival is over.
And if you watch this movie you will see that they do it very near the end... Read more
Published on Jan. 24 2003 by Dennis Littrell
5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless Classic
This film is a must,a cornerstone for any fan of Brazilian film,samba, bossa nova. It truly gives viewers an insight into life in the favelas, the stark poverty, but the happiness... Read more
Published on Jan. 5 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic of world cinema
The classic film that brought Brazil's bossa nova music to the world outside, this was a wry modernist update of the classical Greek myth of Orpheus and Euridyce, the starcrossed... Read more
Published on Dec 15 2002 by DJ Joe Sixpack
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful interpretation of the classic
A lot of people were surprised when this won for Best Foreign Language Film at the 1959 Academy Awards. Read more
Published on Oct. 5 2002 by R. Gawlitta
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