50/50 Review #7: Black Orpheus.

I'm a big fan of mythology, as I've said in the past. As it is for many people, Greek mythology is where it all started for me. So I was really excited to see a film that took the Orpheus story and "modernized" it. It's the day before Carnival, and we're give Orfeo (Breno Mello), a popular young musician and trolley operator in Rio. He's about to marry Mira (Lourdes de Oliveira), but soon falls in love with Eurydice (Marpessa Dawn), the cousin of Mira's friend, Serafina (Lea Garcia). But Eurydice feels she's in danger, having run away from home as Death (Ademar Da Silva) is after her.

Sure enough, my favorite parts of this movie dealt with all the references to Greek mythology. Besides the obvious main two characters, there's the trolley station owner named Hermes who knows the city like the back of his hand. There's the descent into the underworld at the end, including a dog named Cerberus. Things like that. Even stranger is that the movie is self aware. A character references the Orpheus myth at the beginning of the movie as a joke, the very myth that the film is portraying. An odd choice, but interesting nonetheless.

That being said, there was one question that never left my mind while watching: Will they ever stop dancing? I get it. It's Carnival. It's a major celebration/party time. But there are long stretches of nothing but dancing and partying, and it gets incredibly boring after a while. In fact, if you took out all the excess dancing/party moments, the movie would probably only be about 45 minutes long (cutting about an hour). Even if it was interesting dancing, it would have gotten old, as it was the same moves over and over. But it wasn't interesting dancing. It was just a chaotic throwing around of the legs and body.

I know a lot of stuff in this film is a cultural thing. Perhaps I need to be better versed in it. Looking at it from that perspective and its importance to the culture and the story it represents, I can see why it won an Oscar. But I don't felt the script held up, nor did the acting of the majority of the cast. Orfeo and Eurydice were alright, but everyone else--not so much. So honestly, outside of the mythology aspect, the film didn't really work for me (and I was actually disappointed when the big moment came at the end where he can't turn around. It could have been built up more with him leading her out, like in the actual myth... so it felt like I was waiting for this big moment the entire film, sitting through all this dancing and whatnot... and I was left underwhelmed even in that department). I'm not saying it was bad. I just didn't care for it on the whole.

Stop Saying OK! OK.

(P.S. That'll do it for Travis' Month! Man, Travis, you gave me some pretty strange films. But this month had everything... from the great (Naked) to the bleh (Red Shoes) to the WTF (Hausu) and everything in between. Next month I think I get a little more of the 'in between' with Nolahn's Month. You know that'll be interesting! Stay tuned.)


  1. I enjoyed the spectacle of this film quite a bit. I agree that some of the dancing sequences went off track and for too long. But I liked the touches. I like, for instance, when Orpheus sings to the kids, the kids quiet the animals down--a subtle nod to the myth that Orpheus's playing would calm down wild beasts. It even comes complete with the appearance at the end of something akin to the Bacchae.

    Like you, I enjoy it when my revamped myths are still true in many ways to the source material.

  2. "Next month I think I get a little more of the 'in between'..."

    If by "in between," you mean next month's films will be in between "awesome" and "totally awesome"!

  3. A movie I never heard of about stuff I'm not familiar with. Pass!

  4. Nick, have you seen Jean Cocteau's Orpheus? All of the mythology, none of the dancing! It does have quite a poetic, surreal overtone, though. And I haven't seen Black Orpheus, though I ought to. I love dancing, so I'll probably be totally into it. :)


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