Black Orpheus (Orfeu Negro) Reviews
The film can get rather draggy, with such filler as, of all things, dancing sequences being particularly monotonous, although even the material covered in the actual plotting meanders, making a somewhat thoughtful atmosphere a touch dull, while driving a certain unevenness into the focus of this story of limited layers, or at least what feels like limitations to layers. The film limps along its plot points to the extent of actually losing focus before too long, convoluting a path which is either overblown or, well, undercooked. A lot of the narrative focus is unclear because, for all the dragging, characterization is thin, in that development is not so much lacking, as much as it is questionable, never truly gracing its roles with nuance which might be worthy of investment, and seeming to use them as devices for the contrivances. The conflicts feel a bit manufactured, with trite dialogue and histrionics which are made all the more cheesy by fantastic aspects, because at its heart, this film seems to be aiming for some sort of thematic or artistic expression which is even more ambiguous than the focus of the narrative, due to all of the questionable structuring. With even the thematic value thin, this film cannot obscure its natural shortcomings, because even with all of the dragging and underdevelopment taken out of account, this story concept remains lighthearted and reliant on a color which is there, but diluted by an execution which is even more problematic than the ideas behind this film. This film ought to at least be driven by its color, and in an adequate amount of ways, it is, but in too many places, it's a little flat, with humor, focus and intrigue, until it falls deep into underwhelminginess, almost into mediocrity. The final product, however, manages to avoid descending to that point, narrowly saved by an entertainment value which is complimented by a solid aesthetic value.
Even Luiz Bonfá's and Antônio Carlos Jobim's widely recognized soundtrack is underexplored, and when it is used, it kind of wears you down when it falls upon, say, the aforementioned overdrawn dancing sequences, but that distinct bossa nova flavor does a lot to liven the film up, and help in selling the colorful culture of Brazil. Really, this film is a rich tribute to Brazil in a number of ways, not just with its musical style, but with a visual style that isn't too cinematography splendid, but with just enough color to bounce nifty Brazilian culture traits, as well as gorgeous Brazilian landscapes. There's an immersion value to this film's celebration of Brazil, in all of its aesthetic glory, thus, you can really feel the passion in Marcel Camus' direction, although that's not to say his sharp tastes end with the celebration of distinctly lovely music and visuals, as he actually utilizes these aesthetic touches to compliment the energy of the storytelling itself. The film is saved by its being more entertaining and not, and never being less than charming, both in its ambition and in its color, anchored by performances which are more endearing than the roles they portray. Characterization isn't much of a priority to the storytelling of this flamboyant film, so material is limited arguably a touch more than the usual '50s flick, and there are a few mediocre performances to further challenge your investment, but what performances there are which charm are very charismatic, particularly when accompanied by some solid chemistry that makes this melodramatic affair a little easier to buy into. This story is always challenging, as it's so thin and contrived, yet just overblown enough for its interpretation to be meandering, and yet, it's almost Shakespearean flavor and culturally celebratory scope makes for an interesting idea that can be made or broken by the strengths of Camus', Vinicius de Moraes' and Jacques Viot's messy script, whose humor is reliant on subtle satire and wit, if not simply dated, and is therefore flat more often than it should be, but is still sharp enough with its wit to mark heights in a color that rarely falls in the meandering, yet fluffily drawn structural writing. There's plenty to complain about here, and not a whole lot to praise, and never all that highly, but with patience, one ought to find plenty to enjoy in this film, which entertains enough to endear, even if it by only so much.
All in all, the film is draggy and even a little bland, and certainly rather unfocused, with thin characterization and contrivances behind a story too thin to handle all of the misguidance, which is challenged well enough by the colorful score work, visuals, direction, performances and writing which save Marcel Camus' "Black Orpheus" as an adequately entertaining, if challenging affair.
2.5/5 - Fair