By far the most interesting of Cocteau's Orphic Trilogy, Orphee (or Orpheus) is a visual delight that also deals with some very serious themes. The role of artists in a fickle society that chews up and spits out the creative; an artist's fear of the death not of his body, but of his creative passion; artists needing to put the demands of art above everything else in life; the alleged victory of death, itself--like I said, weighty stuff! What saves Orphee from preciousness is the irrepressible post-WW II buoyancy so evident here. Who would have thought--in 1946 or 47, when Europe was in flames--that a few years later (this film was released in 1950) anyone would be left alive in France capable of making a picture like this one? You are also watching the birth of the Culture of Youth in this film. Orphee is scorned as old and irrelevant by the beat generation of intellectuals, even as he is mobbed in the street by autograph-hungry bobby-soxers (the 50's version of happily brain-free pop fandom). I adore Marie Calais in this picture, too, her aloof yet vulnerable portrayal of a love struck Death is one of the greatest twists on the classic Femme Fatale ever put on film. This is a great picture to watch with Carol Reed's The Third Man--shot on location in poignantly bombed-out Vienna in 1949--to get a sense of what post-war Europe looked and felt like as it tried to wake itself up from the extended nightmare of the war. Or--if you want more of the fun of the era, less of the pathos, put it in a double feature with 1951's An American in Paris, in which Gene Kelly dances along the Seine as the embodiment of American post-war optimism in a Paris so recently nearly crushed beneath jack boots.