Dedicated to Max,without whom I 'd never have been able to review this work!
Few directors are more despised than Marcel Camus in his native France ;some of his works,including this one,are not mentioned in the "Dictionnaire Des Films" ;"Orfeu Negro " is granted one measly star whereas it got the Palme D'Or in Cannes and is known all around the world. Ever since his first effort ,the overlooked "Mort En Fraude" ,he began exoticism,which makes him ,in a way,the forerunner of such a director as Régis Warnier.
Things began to deteriorate after "L'Oiseau De Paradis " and he ditched his trademark (exoticism ): "Le Chant Du Monde " ,Vivre La Nuit " or "Le Mur De L' Atlantique -only memorable as it is Bourvil's last film- were poor efforts and retrospectively tarnished his reputation by association ;a reputation which was already attacked by the critics ,because of " his two bit exoticism ".
"L'Oiseau De Paradis" retains,even today , a pristine charm;there is something fascinating when you are watching it;it's an estimable work,if only for its spontaneity ,for its vignettes depicting Cambodia in the early sixties.
The screenplay is derivative ,and the whole thing resembles "Orfeu Negro" ,but it hardly touched public imagination in the way the 1958 movie did;hence its commercial failure (and the four-year break between " L'Oiseau" and "Le Chant Du Monde" ).
The similarities between the two works are striking: Orfeu is engaged to Myra ;the bird of paradise predicts that Dara and Khems are meant for each other....And as Orfeu falls for Eurydice ,it's love at first sight for Dara and Sok ,a young man who just refused to become a Buddhist monk.Nothing will happen as it was "planned".
Eurydice is chased by a man dressed up as a skeleton (Death) ;Khem will represent death in "L'Oiseau".In both worlds ,modernism means threat ,fear ,destruction: Khem's car which pursue the lovers ,the powerhouse where Eurydice dies.
Camus tried to link his story with scenes of Cambodian life;it is not as convincing as in"Orfeu Negro" .Nevertheless the opening scene and the following events ,depicting happy-go-Lucky without a penny to his name Sok ,show he was not made to be a monk.The play within the play ,à la "Hamlet" ,is also a good idea.Tith ,the little orphan boy is endearing.
One should never praise enough Camus for his honesty,as far as the languages are concerned .His movie was dubbed in French for the theaters ,but it was possible,like for "Orfeu Negro" to watch the movies in their original version with subtitles.Some actors of this movie reportedly became big stars in their country.
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