Orphée (Orpheus)

Critics 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.



Total Count: 29


Audience Score

User Ratings: 4,653
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Orphée (Orpheus) Photos

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


Critic Reviews for Orphée (Orpheus)

All Critics (29) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (28) | Rotten (1)

  • It has the mystery and elasticity of a dream, and all the farcical comic horror of chancing across the intricate contents of the Blessed Virgin's lingerie collection.

    Oct 18, 2018 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • Jean Cocteau's scripting and directing give the film its proper key of unworldliness.

    Mar 26, 2009 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

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

    Mar 25, 2006 | Full Review…
  • Its tight cross-lacing of paranoid dreaming and poetic realism grips like a bondage corset.

    Feb 11, 2006 | Full Review…
  • Full of haunting imagery plucked from the realm of fairy tales, Orphée is one of the great cinematic fantasies of the 20th century.

    Mar 16, 2004 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

    Jamie Russell

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

    Jan 1, 2000 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Orphée (Orpheus)

  • May 06, 2016
    Jean Cocteau's 1949 film "Orpheus" is the second in "The Orphic Trilogy" and stars the director's muse Jean Marais. A modern adaptation of the Greek strory of Orpheus and Eurydice that is full of trick photography. Orpheus is played by Jean Marais, a man so infatuated with his own poetry and success he never notices his wife is pregnant. He falls in love with a Princess who turns out to be death who takes his wife Eurydice to the underworld. Orpheus follows her and recovers her but can no longer look at her. Great film, even if the last twenty minutes are a little slow.
    Joseph B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 10, 2014
    Like 'Last Year at Marienbad,' a look at the hypnotic, but ultimately destructive, dance a man can fall into with his undeveloped, feminine 'anima.' A classic of French film, and a great adaptation of the mythic tale.
    Kyle M Super Reviewer
  • Aug 31, 2011
    Cocteau uses his "astonishing" cinematic abilities to merge magical elements and catchy technical camera tricks to confirm himself as a poet, constructing an extraordinary contribution to fantasy in cinema and one of the rarest tragedies ever shown on the big screen. The core of Cocteau's poetry is love and its overwhelming power, even capable of destructing the borders of Death. Just beautiful... 99/100
    Edgar C Super Reviewer
  • Jul 12, 2011
    Another poetic and beautifully lensed film from Jean Cocteau on a subject he is very fond of both professionally and personally. This is his take on Orpheus set in 50s Paris and featuring some eerie and gorgeously gothic imagery much like his version of Beauty and the Beast. A great symbolic and meditative film to be absorbed and thought upon. From a refined time and place by an amazing and gifted Director.
    Chris B Super Reviewer

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