Black Orpheus (Orfeu Negro) (1959)

TOMATOMETER

Critic Consensus: Colorful, atmospheric, and infections, Black Orpheus takes an ancient tale and makes it fresh anew, thanks in part to its bewitching bossa nova soundtrack.

AUDIENCE SCORE


Want to See

Not Interested

Add Rating
My Rating    

Black Orpheus (Orfeu Negro) Photos

Movie Info

Black Orpheus (Orfeu Negro) is literally what its title suggests: a retelling of the "Orpheus and Eurydice" legend enacted by black performers. This time the setting is the annual Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Orpheus (Breno Mello) is a streetcar conductor; Eurydice (Marpessa Dawn) has just jilted her lover and is attempting to escape his wrath. Orpheus himself falls in love with Eurydice, whereupon her ex-lover, disguised as the Angel of Death shows up and kills Eurydice. To reclaim his lost love, Orpheus enters "Hell" (the Rio morgue) and uses supernatural methods to revive the dead girl. A multi-award winner on the international film scene, Black Orpheus features a samba musical score by Luiz Bonfa and Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Watch it now

Cast

Critic Reviews for Black Orpheus (Orfeu Negro)

All Critics (37) | Top Critics (10)

An almost irrationally infectious retelling of the Orpheus-Eurydice chestnut set during carnival and feverish with hip-swiveling hustle, exploding local color, and sleeve-worn heart.

Nov 15, 2013 | Full Review…

It is an amazing creation.

Nov 15, 2013 | Full Review…
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

This sort of thing was considered high art not so long ago; now it seems forced and ponderously symbolic.

Nov 15, 2013 | Full Review…

[The film has] swirling color, the excitement of samba and the accessible joy of a fabled city, not to mention a charming Orpheus in the young Brazilian Breno Mello, and a dazzling Eurydice in the American-born dancer and actress Marpessa Dawn.

Oct 23, 2010 | Full Review…

Pic is somewhat cerebral, being mainly helped by the fresh playing of the cast.

Jul 22, 2008 | Full Review…
Variety
Top Critic

One of the great musicals.

Aug 3, 2006 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Black Orpheus (Orfeu Negro)

lyricism, magic, love, death, the real flavour of latin american joy for living. A tragedy in vivid colours and heavenly notes.

Pierluigi Puccini
Pierluigi Puccini

Super Reviewer

Mythological love and chaos in the world's grandest carnival, Black Orpheus is a modern adaptation of the timeless tale of Orpheus and Eurydice that feasts on rhythm and visual splendor. Vibrant.

Jan Marc Macababayao
Jan Marc Macababayao

Super Reviewer

½

I was skeptical -- I don't watch old movies. There's usually some anachronistic reference or humor that I don't get and then feel bad that I don't get then hate the movie for making me feel bad. And it's not that I LOVED this movie. The beginning is a little slow, some of the Carnival dance scenes are a bit tedious (that's if you're not dancing along at home...which I was so no biggie) and Death is just a guy in a costume. But I was completely mesmerized by the second half of the movie. Without any cheap special effects tricks (they had movies in 1959?), this movie is, in a clichà (C)d word, beautiful. The iconic final scene might even bring a tear to your eye. (Thanks Rach!)

Jason Robinson
Jason Robinson

Super Reviewer

1959's "Black Orpheus" is like some long-forgotten children's book of what the rest of the world, with it's exotic people and colorful locations might look like. Along the beautiful coast of Rio de Janeiro, we wander up through villages stacked at impossible angles against gigantic hills and mountains, as the city below litters the shoreline and paper ships dot the glimmering ocean. The story follow Eurydice, a country girl who's ship arrives in the harbor just in time for the "carnival", a fantastical time of dancing and celebration for the people of Rio. For the first 20 minutes of so of the film, there is almost no dialogue exchanged as we follow Eurydice through the city and up the side of the mountain, just the almost nonstop pulse of the samba rhythm pounding away as literally every person she passes on her journey is either dancing or performing music. Director Marcel Camus doesn't attempt to disguise his love of this culture as he packs every scene with life and color. Orpheus of greek mythology serves as the inspiration for Orfeu, the streetcar conductor who plays guitar and sings, and also charms every woman in the village. The beautiful Mira has him cornered into a proposal, but Orfeu forsakes all others the day he meets Eurydice. Eurydice arrives in town to hide out with her cousin, Serafina, away from a man dressed as death who's bee chasing her. Orfeu and Eurydice's story is told through the eyes of two young boys who see Orfeu as some sort of god (they believe his singing causes the sun to rise). Of course the tragedy parallels the original story of Orpheus and Eurydice, but the genius of this film is in the way it weaves the story into each aspect of life in Rio, from carnival and samba, to voodoo and government ineffeciancy. And even when the story turns heavy, there's just so much fairytale up on the screen it's hard to take things cynically. This is like a beautiful, arthouse version of "Slumdog Millionaire". When I watch a movie like Black Orpheus, I'm swept up in the mythology the film creates. I can't imagine there's anywhere on earth better to live than the village of Orfeu and Serafina, where you can buy groceries with a kiss and dancing cable cars roam the streets picking up stray girls.

Devon Bott
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer

Black Orpheus (Orfeu Negro) Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

News & Features