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Orpheus (1950)

Orphée (original title)
A poet in love with Death follows his unhappy wife into the underworld.

Director:

Jean Cocteau

Writer:

Jean Cocteau
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Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Jean Marais ... Orphée
François Périer ... Heurtebise
María Casares ... The Princess - Death
Marie Déa ... Eurydice
Henri Crémieux ... L'éditeur
Juliette Gréco ... Aglaonice
Roger Blin Roger Blin ... The Poet
Edouard Dermithe Edouard Dermithe ... Jacques Cégeste
Paul Amiot Paul Amiot ... Judge
René Worms René Worms ... Judge
Raymond Faure Raymond Faure
Pierre Bertin Pierre Bertin ... Le commissaire
Jacques Varennes Jacques Varennes ... Judge
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
André Carnège André Carnège ... Judge
Claude Mauriac Claude Mauriac
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Storyline

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 <P.M.Laws@education.leeds.ac.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Fantasy | Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

France

Language:

French

Release Date:

29 November 1950 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Orpheus See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Orphee's obsession with deciphering hidden messages contained in random radio noise is a direct nod to the coded messages that the BBC concealed in their wartime transmissions for the French Resistance. See more »

Quotes

Heurtebise: I am letting you into the secret of all secrets, mirrors are gates through which death comes and goes. Moreover if you see your whole life in a mirror you will see death at work as you see bees behind the glass in a hive.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Artemis 81 (1981) See more »

Soundtracks

Dance of the Blessed Souls -- from Orphée et Eurydice
Written by Christoph Willibald Gluck
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Dazzling and inventive but flawed.
10 July 2013 | by Sergeant_TibbsSee all my reviews

From its explosive opening where a brawl occurs at a café for poets that's "the nerve-centre of the world" to traveling through the afterlife to the very end, Orphée's mania never stops. It's an incredibly gripping and bizarre film which immediately evolves into a bad dream. It's grandest aspect is the visual treat that visionary director Jean Cocteau offers. The camera is fluid and active, whipping between characters and sets, exploring high and low angles. Though the highlight is the special effects, especially for its time even if clearly channeling Méliès, with seamless reversed shots, projections, wires and point of view shots involving mirrors. The narrative flows fluently to give a rich and inventive story, with elements of innovative humour, with double meanings and exaggerations, and tragedy redeemed. With its ambiguity between reality, dream or fantasy world, it could even be argued that there is no reality and it begins right in the fantasy, though the expert use of foreshadowing renders that aspect irrelevant in cinema.

Despite it having a very compacted story, there's not enough emotional or thought-provoking ideas there for me to understand why it's considered a masterpiece, especially due to its consistent tension, rather than an ideal fluctuating tone. The characters, besides the surprising supporting character Heurtebise with a subtle performance from François Périer, there is little chemistry between the actors, who for the majority of the time give melodramatic performances solely for the camera. As it's a story trying to be about love, this only comes across as a sidenote to the spectacle. There is, however, the fascinating idea of how an artist can be so enamoured with inspiration that they neglect their real life and purpose of why they're creating their art. It also does not show any of the deaths, the films other main theme, which dramatically decreases their potential power. There is an incidental scene where the Inspector is talking to people in his office in which it has a brief flashback while a man is talking of what he's talking about - a technique Hiroshima Mon Amour later innovated. With the dazzling and inventive direction, Orphée is a great film, but too often doesn't take itself seriously enough.

8/10


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