Orphee is a poet who becomes obsessed with Death (the Princess). They fall in love. Orphee's wife, Eurydice, is killed by the Princess' henchmen and Orphee goes after her into the Underworld. Although they have become dangerously entangled, the Princess sends Orphee back out of the Underworld, to carry on his life with Eurydice.Written by
The legend of Orpheus is well-known. In Greek mythology, Orpheus was a troubadour from Thrace. He charmed even the animals. His songs diverted his attention from his wife Eurydice. Death took her away from him. He descended to the netherworld and used his charm to win permission to return with Eurydice to the world of the living on the condition that he never look at her. But he looked at her and was torn to pieces by the Bacchantes. Where does our story take place and when? A ...
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"Orpheus" is still one of the most magical fantasy films, despite the technical advances made in special effects. The journeys through mirrors (achieved by using doubles, vats of mercury, troughs of water, and unsilvered glass) have a dreamlike quality and the zone beyond them has the haunted nightmare feeling of a 1940s neoromantic painting. A versatile poet, playwright, essayist, artist, and filmmaker, Jean Cocteau made this film when he was 60. He identified with the egotistical, death-loving Orpheus, and the hostility that characters in the movie have towards Orpheus reflect the homosexual, dilettante, politically uncommitted Cocteau's own resentment of the attacks levelled against him by the Surrealists and communists in the 1920s, and after the war by younger critics. The tribunal in the underworld is a combination of wartime resistance meetings and postwar courts set up to judge collaborators. The cryptic snatches of poems on the car radio were inspired by the coded messages sent by the BBC to the French Resistance. The casting of Jean Marais as the fading poet and Edouard Dermithe as the rising one reflects the position the two actors had in Cocteau's life. The film is at one timeless and a reflection of Paris in the postwar years.
"Orpheus" has its weaknesses, but it has worn well. While it may seem less obscure today, it has lost little of its poetic charm. Some of its particular grace comes from the performances by the handsome Marais, the striking Maria Casares, and Francois Perier.
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