PALME D’OR – “Orfeu Negro”, the myth in motion –

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The Cannes Film Festival will not take place. In any case, not in May. And not in the form we know. The editorial staff offers you a non-exhaustive selection of Palmes d’or which have marked the history of the festival since its creation.

There are countless artistic adaptations of the myth of Orpheus: Jean Cocteau made a film of it (1950) with Jean Marais in the title role; Jacques Demy had done the same, revisiting it this time in a completely different context with Car park (1985); Arcade Fire an album with Reflector in 2013. It is also thanks to Arcade Fire that we discover for the first time the images of theOrfeu Negro by French director Marcel Camus, whose images are used for the lyrics clip ofAfterlife.

Orfeu Negro is the film adaptation of a play by Vinícius de Moraes (Orfeu da Conceição), this one depicts the life of Orpheus (Breno Mello) a black man who drives a tram in Rio and a renowned artist, who lives in the favelas of Rio. He falls madly in love with Eurydice (Marpessa Dawn), a young woman who has come to take refuge with her cousin Serafina for a while, in order to protect herself from a stranger who is tormenting and chasing her. Obviously everyone knows more or less the rest. Eurydice is snatched from the world of the living, and Orpheus must, in order to retrieve her, not turn around until he returns with her to it…

“Remind me your name?

– You have forgotten ? Eurydice!

– Great! I have loved you for a long time, Orpheus loves Eurydice, everyone knows that! »

Excerpt from the meeting between Orpheus and Eurydice – Orfeu Negro (1959)

The film has the particularity of using non-professional actors and taking place in the unique context of the Rio Carnival (although Marcel Camus reconstructed most of the carnival scenes). Making the particular choice to develop his story in the favelas, from the heights of the city, highlighting the colors, the joy, the rhythmic and shimmering hues of an environment that is nonetheless precarious. He thus highlights the black community, which is often invisible in the midst of these emblematic postcard landscapes.

Movie poster for the restored digital version of Orfeu Negro in 2016

This film marks a first contact with bossa nova for France but also for the world, this bossa nova that we will find seven years later in A man and a woman by Lelouch with the music of Pierre Barouh, Samba Saravah. Here it is the eminent Antônio Carlos Jobim, Vinícius de Moraes and Luiz Bonfá who dedicate themselves to the development of a score that has become a classic of Brazilian music, with compositions such as O Nosso Amor, Where Carnival Manha, the main theme of the film declined in different versions. Throughout the film, the music comes, just like the strong use of color and dance, to counterbalance the dark aspects of the myth, to bring out all its poetry and lyricism.

Because under his joyful and heady tunes Orfeu Negro is a heartbreaking drama about ephemeral love, jealousy, and the lightness of living, a lightness suddenly undermined by a destiny written from the beginning and this since the myth has existed. The love of Orpheus and Eurydice is a love made of sadness nestled under a yoke of jubilation. The lyricism inherent in this type of cinema combines tradition and modernity both in its themes and in its narration, presenting a sincere, if sometimes exotic, face of this community life heated by the succinct nature of the party and the celebration.

A magnificent palme d’or which was a great success with critics, the year when the Cannes Film Festival saw the birth of Truffaut’s career with the 400 shots, and hosted out of competition Hiroshima my love by Alain Resnais. The film will subsequently be Oscar for best foreign film, and will win a Golden Globe. Orfeu Negro is available on VOD on platforms such as LaCinetek and UniverseCine.

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PALME D’OR – “Orfeu Negro”, the myth in motion –