Black Orpheus (Brazil)

I have always been reluctant to watch (and especially review) classic films such as Black Orpheus for the simple fact that I wasn’t alive when they came out so I do not know their cultural impact at the time, which is something I think is crucially important when judging a film’s merits. Regardless, I viewed this French-produced 1959 spectacle of Carnaval and the classic tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice to be pleasantly satisfied to find it still holds up today.


In Rio during the glorious time of Carnaval, tram conductor Orpheus (Breno Mello) meets and immediately falls in love with the enchanting, wholesome Eurydice (Marpessa Dawn). The problem for their blossoming love is the fact that Orpheus is engaged (and fills the paperwork out) to the arrogant, controlling Mira (Lourdes de Oliveira). Further complicating matters is Eurydice’s ex-lover who has followed her to Orpheus’ town dressed as death planning on taking what he feels is rightfully his—Eurydice.

The tag line for this film today would easily be something like, “Hell hath no fury like a lover scorned.”

The whole time watching this film I couldn’t help but think about who would be cast in these roles today, more from aesthetic similarities than skill, but Freida Pinto would be a perfect Eurydice, while Dania Ramirez would be an excellent Mira. I never figured out a solid choice for Orpheus, but Jesse Williams is a good Breno Mello doppelganger.

Anyway, back to the film. The story moves at a lightning pace from Orpheus and Eurydice’s first meeting to them in love, to him leaving Mira and so on. After a certain event, which shall not be described for spoilers, the story grinds to a serious halt and somewhat limps into a melancholic ending. Regardless, the one aspect I could not deny is that Black Orpheus holds up today as an excellent romance with fun characters and great visuals.

That’s why this is a short review. I have very little else to say about this film. It is worth your time if you feel like sifting through the old movies collection and reading the subtitles (the film is in Brazilian Portuguese).

Here’s a long trailer in French w/ subtitles:

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