Directed by one-hit wonder Marcel Camus, this French-Brazilian co-production was the winner of the Palme d’Or and a smash international hit… This is Black Orpheus or Orfeu Negro. Breno Mello stars as Orfeu and Marpessa Dawn is Eurydice in this retelling of the Ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Instead of Ancient Greece, our setting is Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. And, as to be expected, the sights are breathtaking, the costumes are extraordinary, and the music is infectious. It is a love story set against an awesome, colorful canvas. The film begins with music. And its ending - perhaps among the most poignant and affecting ever seen in film - also ends with music.
In my opinion, both actors were born to play their parts. And to add to the mythology of the film, both Mello and Dawn died within two months of each other in 2008. Many would say that isn’t a coincidence. Coincidence or not, it seems fitting. In other trivia, the film was the favorite of the mother of Barack Obama. The film is also seen as progressive in Brazilian cinema as it was a rare film that cast almost all black actors and extras.
The Academy found the film infectious themselves, awarding Black Orpheus the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film - making this unlikely film stand among giants.
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