What more can one say about Black Orpheus? I discovered this film in the 90’s and it has remained in my top five films and soundtracks of all time. The people, colors, landscape, music, and even the main character’s guitar, contribute to the wonderfulness of this Brazilian adaptation of the Greek mythological story of Orpheus as well as the original play, Orfeu da Conceição.

Also known as Orfeu Negro, the story takes place in and around 1959’s Rio de Janeiro and in the favela of Morro da Babilônia. Directed by Marcel Camus (France), Black Orpheus captures the essence of the streets and countryside during Carnival, while unfolding a tragic love story drenched in the sun, with beautiful people, and bossa/samba rhythms unlike anyone had ever heard at the time of its release (it’s still considered the international debut of bossa and samba music to the world). The film went on to win the Palme d’Or at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival, the 1960 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and the 1960 Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film.

Starring Marpessa Dawn as Eurydice, and Breno Mello as Orfeu, its as if you can see and feel the love and innocence between the two as well as the energy and magic of Carnival that literally seem to jump out of the screen. What also adds to the surrealism of the main characters is that Dawn (Paris, France) and Mello (Porto Alegre, Brazil) both passed away last year, 42 days apart, both of heart attacks (RIP).
On another character note, Zeca (aka Carlinhos Pandeiro de Ouro), the little boy playing the pandeiro and guitar, is still playing his beloved instrument, alive and well. That pretty much made my day today when I found that out *lol*. Click his name link to check him out..

Teaser: If things seem to get sad towards the ending, the very last scene will have you dancing around singing..

Finally the music..When I first saw the film and heard the soundtrack, I was a newbie to Brazilian music. To this day I’m still enchanted by the percussive fluidness of samba and bossa nova, as well as the many other sounds of Brazil that I come across in my discoveries, but to be introduced by way of this film made it extra special. Written by legendary bossa king, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfá, you will not be disappointed in this album, even for collector’s purposes. Trust me.

Last note: This post is for those who know and love this film like myself, my wife, friends we’ve watched it with, as well as those who are waiting to see one of the most beautiful films ever made.

And lastly, I’ll end with a trailer, narrated by none other than Orfeu’s guitar..

You can pick it up here or grab it from your local library.