What’s up! I’m Marlon, and this is Ulven Reviews: movies and series from all over the world.
Today let’s talk about the 1959 French Brazilian Fantasy Black Orpheus (Orfeu Negro or Orfeu do Carnaval), starring Breno Mello and Marpessa Dawn and directed by Marcel Camus.
This movie is currently available on Amazon Prime Video. Tomorrow, we never know.
So, I’ll leave the link for the Just Watch Website in the description box. You can change the country to see where it might be available in your location.
From Friday 25 to Ash Wednesday, Brazil is celebrating Carnival, its most traditional festival. That’s why I decided to review a Special movie.
Actually, the true working people of Brazil are prohibited from parting on the streets because of the Covid Pandemic. The rich people can do private parties with large crowds with no repercussions.
Anyway! I would love to dedicate even more time and analyze every detail of the film, but since I wanted to release it before March I had to rush it a little. Let’s go!
Black Orpheus won the 1960 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award… For France!
The cast is Brazilian, except Marpessa Dawn. It’s set in Brazil, in Portuguese, with the most traditional Brazilian festivity, and Brazilian culture in every single aspect. But the director, producer, editor, and some of the others behind the camera crew are French.
That’s why I think it’s fair to consider it French-Brazilian or vice-versa. Like when we talked about Under the Shadow, a somewhat British production set in Iran, with Iranian cast and culture, so on.
And since we’re talking about movies reviewed here previously, Black Orpheus’ beginning reminded me a lot of Ousmane Sembene’s movies, Ceddo and Xala. The three movies start with very upbeat rhythms.
In the case of Black Orpheus, it’s Carnival times, so there’s a lot of Samba on the streets. Samba’s roots are Afro-Brazilian, and at the beginning of the movie, these roots are evident.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’ll talk about music at the end of the review, like usual.
The story is nothing out of this world. It’s inspired by a play by Vinicius de Moraes, which was inspired by the ancient Greek myth Orpheus and Eurydice.
To be honest, the only thing I knew about this myth was from Saint Seiya, especially the Lost Canvas. Then I read a little about it, and I could see that the movie has many differences from the legend.
The movie begins slightly slow and almost uninteresting, but eventually, it gets a good rhythm that flows smoothly for the most part until the end.
It’s a compelling enough romance. It’s not realistic because it’s too strong too fast, but that’s how they usually roll in this kind of legend.
The ending of the movie is very heartbreaking, a typical greek tragedy. But in a way, it reminded me of Nights of Cabiria, a tragic conclusion, but with little hints of hope. It was satisfactory.
As I said, the film has enough differences in the plot to be its own beast. However, the main peculiarity of the movie is in the Brazilian identity.
One of the things I loved to see is how they inserted the Afro-Brazilian religion into the myth. The Hades from Greek mythology gave place to the incorporation of spirits in the terreiro. I think it was one of the most creative ways of merging two dissimilar folklores.
Orfeu is a great character. He’s kind, brave, the typical mythological hero. He leads the story from beginning to end and very well.
Serafina is also fundamental as a helpful support for both the protagonists.
Chico (played by Waldemar De Souza) is Serafina’s boyfriend, and he’s a decent comic relief, I like him.
I liked the two kids as well, they have some comic moments and play a good role as Orfeu’s sidekicks and apprentices.
IMDb’s info is too messy to identify them correctly, but the one I liked the most, was the one who did not play guitar.
Unfortunately, Eurydice is the typical damsel in distress.
She’s beautiful, naive, and passive. She’s uninteresting.
Mira, the girlfriend, is purely annoying. I think she could have been eliminated from the script without affecting it too much.
The acting is really hard to evaluate because the dubbing is strange. I like the fact that Breno Mello was actually a football player from Fluminense when he was asked to lead the movie. I think he did a fantastic job as an actor.
The cinematography has some outstanding, breathtaking shots. My favorite were the shots of the beaches seen from the top of the hills. The Carnival parades full of colors and costumes are another really amazing point.
As promised, back to music. The score was composed by Luiz Bonfá and Antonio Carlos Jobim (mostly known as Tom Jobim). Besides the sambas I mentioned at the beginning of the review, this movie is pointed as responsible for making Bossa Nova known to the rest of the world.
Bossa Nova is a kind of samba, but it’s different from the upbeat one from the beginning of the movie and the Carnival parades. It’s much calmer and better accepted by the elites, probably because the composers are whiter. That’s a guess, not an informed opinion.
These two very Brazilian music genres were beautifully used in the film. It’s amazing seeing how the song A Felicidade makes the scene of Orfeu in love much better.
The song itself is beautiful, and its melody matched so well with the mood the movie was trying to transmit.
Black Orpheus is an amazing classic. It has a well-known, compelling story, but is distinct enough from the original to be innovative. It’s worth the watch, and I’ll give Black Orpheus 8 Moons!
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Thanks for watching see you in the next video.