Orphée (Orpheus) (1950)



Critic Consensus: Heavy with symbolism and deliberately paced, Orpheus may not be for everyone -- but as an example of Jean Cocteau's eccentric genius, it's all but impossible not to recommend.

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Movie Info

Cinematic poet Jean Cocteau explored the myth of Orpheus on no fewer than three occasions: Le Sang d'Un Poete (Blood of a Poet, 1930), Orphee (Orpheus, 1949) and Le Testament d'Orphee (1960). This second of his "Orpheus" trilogy stars Jean Marais in the title role. Updated to contemporary Paris (albeit a Paris never seen before or since), the story concerns a sensitive young poet named Orpheus, who is married to the lovely Eurydice (Marie Dea). Orpheus' friend Cegeste (Edouard Dermit) is killed in a traffic accident. In the hospital morgue, Cegeste's patroness, The Princess of Death (Maria Casares), revives the young man; then, both Cegeste and Princess pass into the Underworld. Back on earth, Orpheus receives cryptic messages from Cegeste's spirit, as well as nocturnal visitations from the Princess. Meanwhile, Orpheus' wife enters into an affair with Heurtebise (Francois Perier). After seeking advice on her mixed-up love life, Eurydice is herself struck down and killed by the same cyclist who snuffed out Cegeste's life. It appears to Heurtebise that the ghostly Princess has claimed Eurydice so that she, the Princess, can be free to love Orpheus. Heurtebise persuades Orpheus to accompany him into the Underworld in hopes of returning Eurydice to life. By now, however, Orpheus cares little for his wife; he is completely under the Princess' spell. Offered her own liberation from the Underworld by the powers-that-be, the Princess dolefullly agrees to restore Eurydice to life, and to never have anything to do with Orpheus again. Orpheus has weathered much controversy to take its place among the director's most acclaimed works. Originally released at 112 minutes, the film was whittled down to 95 minutes for its American release. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Art House & International , Science Fiction & Fantasy
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Criterion Collection


Jean Marais
as Orpheus
Marie Déa
as Eurydice
François Périer
as Heurtebise
María Casares
as The Princess
Juliette Greco
as Aglaonice
Roger Blin
as The Writer
Edouard Dermit
as Cegeste
Jean Cocteau
as Narrator
Renée Cosima
as Bacchante
Jean-Pierre Melville
as Hotel Manager
Pierre Bertin
as The Inspector
Jacques Varennes
as The First Judge
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for Orphée (Orpheus)

All Critics (26) | Top Critics (5)

Jean Cocteau's scripting and directing give the film its proper key of unworldliness.

Full Review… | March 25, 2009
Top Critic

Somnambulistic symbolism may be art for art's sake. Maybe not. This writer finds it slightly tiresome.

Full Review… | March 24, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

Its tight cross-lacing of paranoid dreaming and poetic realism grips like a bondage corset.

Full Review… | February 10, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Cocteau's film technique is as eccentrically sui generis as ever -- his apparent mistakes are often among his most expressive moments.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Seeing Orpheus today is like glimpsing a cinematic realm that has passed completely from the scene.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

A poet, novelist, painter, sculptor and opium addict, Cocteau only had time to make a handful of films. Watch Orphée and ponder what might have been.

Full Review… | December 7, 2012
Total Film

Audience Reviews for Orphée (Orpheus)

a modern (or at least 50s paris) retelling with beautifully simple effects; almost as magical as la belle et la bete. wonderfully poetic dialogue. gotta love the death bikers :p i read cocteau wanted garbo or dietrich for casares' part. that's fun to imagine.

Stella Dallas
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer


A modern retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Eurydice dies and Orpheus goes to the underworld to bring her back, with the understanding that he can never look at her. I heard raves about this and was excited about seeing it, especially knowing that director Jean Cocteau had directed the magical, brilliant La Belle et La Bete. But I was profoundly disappointed in this. Yes, the effects were interesting, but La Belle did them SO much better. The underworld, instead of seeming ominous and threatening, just seemed to be a dark street in a bad neighborhood. And finally, I just didn't buy that these characters had a love that transcended death itself. Vastly overrated. But maybe I'm just missing something.

Cindy I
Cindy I

Super Reviewer

Another stunning work of art by a true artist

Arash Xak
Arash Xak

Super Reviewer

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