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44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The closest the cinema has come to poetry., 9 Dec 2004
This review is from: Orphee [1950] [DVD] (DVD)
Self-obessessed and self-regarding Orphee, a poet, lives in splendid isolation with his beautiful wife Eurydice in post-war, bomb-damaged France. It is the early 50's and times are changing; Orphee is facing competition from a new wave of Poets and is scorned by the new generation. He goes into town with the intention of facing them down but to his rage, he is studiously ignored.
Their leader, the young Jacques Cegeste, is caught up in a bar-room brawl which spills out into the street and he is killed by a motorcyclist. Orphee, an innocent bystander, is taken away in a black limousine with the lifeless body of Cegeste by a beautiful and mysterious Princess to a deserted house. Here, time runs backwards and the way into the underworld lies through mirrors ("I give you the secret of secrets! Mirrors are the doorway through which death comes").
Orpheus falls in love with the Princess and so falls in love with his own death. Meanwhile, Orphee's absence is noted by the Police, who are advised by Cegeste's followers that he is responsible for the young poet's death.
Ultimately Orphee has to choose between between Death - the Princess - and Eurydice, after she is returned to the Underworld. He is wracked with indecision: the Princess eventually makes the decision for him.
This strange and beautiful film may seem familiar even if you are watching it for the first time as it has been referenced in many other films, as well as in pop videos: and yes, it was the image of Orphee (Jean Marais, Cocteau's lifelong lover) on the cover of The Smiths' This Charming Man.
There are many unforgettable images; Orphee, receiving fragments of poetry via his car radio ("The Bird counts with his fingers! Three times!"); the magical gloves; the glass seller in the Underworld; and ultimately, the final "Adieu!" between the Princess and her driver, the magnificent Herteubise.
Cocteau described his film as being of the myth of immortality: in the end, Death dies. It is certainly the closest the cinema has come to poetry, and is an essential addition to any collection.
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bees in a Glass Hive, 23 July 2004
This review is from: Orphee [1950] [DVD] (DVD)
I remember first seeing Orphee at the Everyman Cinema in London sometime during 1986 and being completely blown away by it! In this age of sterile CGI effects, Cocteau's masterwork is still refreshingly eye-popping with its array of dazzling 'analog' visual set-pieces. The poet-director uses back-projection, reverse-camera tricks, sets built on their sides, etc to create a stunning and mesmerising depiction of a man's (literal) descent into hell. Like no other film before or since-- and more audacious than the critically favoured La Belle et Le Bete-- Orphee is long overdue its release on DVD.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another excellent Cocteau released by BFI, 18 Jan 2009
By 
MarkusG "Markus" (Stockholm, Sweden) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Orphée [DVD] [1950] (DVD)
BFI recently (re)released Cocteaus classic "Beauty and the Beast" with excellent transfer, booklet and commentary track. With Orphee they have done it again. For a 60 year old film this looks remarkable, the booklet is informative and well written and the commentary seems competent (I have only listened to parts of it though).

About the film: Orphee is a very original film blending myth and reality. It is an adaptation of the Orpheus myth, but set in post war France. I really like the small means by which Cocteau creates special effects (slow motion, reverse, negative image), and it is remarkable how easy he introduces the magicial or mythical elements into the normal: Death as a woman in a black car, the underworld with it's bureaucracy, ghosts and so on. And his imagination is fantastic, for example the idea with the car radio (in Death's car) blurting out poems (in a robotic voice) which fascinates Orphee so much he has to sit in the car listening and try to scribble them down! This is a film I will watch again to see new aspects and details.

If you like "Beauty and the Beast" you will probably like Orphee.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THe Myth of Orpheus retold., 13 Mar 2009
By 
D. L. Ashcroft-nowicki "SOL" (Jersey UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Orphée [DVD] [1950] (DVD)
If you have read my review on La Bell et La Bete you know I am a fan of Cocteau's work.La Belle was a fairy tale with a happy ending. Orphee is darker, with an underlying theme that makes one think differently about death. The use of a "magic" mirror is typical of Cocteau's vivid imagination, as is the Female Death. The retelling of the ancient myth
has incredible impact especially on minds honed by magical training. If you are ever in London visit the tiny church of Notre Dame du Londres in a side st next to Prince of Wales theatre. Cocteau designed it and for pagans..look at the tapestry behind the altar.. Even the nun in the shop called her "Diana of the Beasts"Watch the film , read the myth, go andsee the Church.
Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki (SOL)
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Film - Haunting, 23 Aug 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Orphee [1950] [DVD] (DVD)
Excellent film which is of the myth of the man who could not look at his wife as the price for getting her back from the dead, but set in 1949/50 France. The dead are taken to the underworld by the mysterious lady, and the motorbile riders - very evocative post WW2 treatment - and the special effects are stunning - all done without the benefit of modern techniques. I saw it at the cinema at a special showing recently (at the great Aldeburgh Cinema) and had only been able to source a dvd in Brazil (bizarre but true), and so seing this released in the UK is very welcome.
A Classic.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Orpheus in the modern world, 1 Jun 2009
By 
technoguy "jack" (Rugby) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Orphée [DVD] [1950] (DVD)
Cocteau was a man of all trades,poet,novelist,draughtsman,filmmaker,excelling at all levels.He even wrote scripts for other directors's films.Perhaps he spread his wares too thin and there is a residual distrust of a creative butterfly. However in this one film all his talents are integrated. He was obsessed with the Orpheus myth and gives a modern variation set in 1940s Paris where he is Orphee, a successful married poet beloved of the public but despised by the left wing poets of the cafe society of the left bank. The variation in this film that he is a poet rather than a musician means he ignores his possibly pregnant wife and is told by a left bank patron to 'astonish us'. He becomes obsessed with death in the shape of Maria Casares as food for love and his imagination. Her chauffeur, Heurtebrize, keeps an eye on the comings and goings into Hades(the underworld).He also falls in love with Orphee's wife.She also ends up in the otherworld through the Princess's jealousy and Orphee has to retrieve her.Whether he's more in love with death is the question.A younger poet has passed to the otherside through the mirror portals between life and death. His scrambled poems come over the radio in the Princess's Rolls Royce.Orphee tries to decipher them:'one glass of water ilumines the world..twice','sleeping or awake the dreamer must accept his dreaming' and 'silence goes faster backwards..three times' This last one particularly is demonstrated as Heurtebrize and Orpheus travel through the'ruins of memory' and backwards through time in their descent into Hades. These scenes in the 'zone' are shot in the ruins of the Saint-Cyr military academy and along with Auric's atmospheric music and Nick Hayer's camera mixing layers of light and shade are some of the best in the movie.

There are many technical tricks like the use of reverse filming to bring people to life or to put on gloves to enter through the mirrors,the use of baths of mercury to suggest entry through the portals,the use of gliding trolleys to carry Heurtebreze in Hades while Orphee struggles to walk through the zone. We get the suggestion through the elderly tribunals questioning the Princess and Heurtebreze about their unlawful dealings with the living about tribunals set up to deal with collaborators by the Resistance and the two leather-clad motorcyclists as fascistic assistants who knock people over like two dark angels. Most oddly we have the strange sight of a window-glazier selling his wares in Hades surrounded by ruined buildings.Perhaps he is an angel.The weird transitions and poetic images have have a strange logic in a tightly-scripted dream.The radio poems allude to BBC broadcasts in the war to the French Resistance.The autobiographical elements resonate with the facts of Cocteau's life through the mirror of fantasy,myth and invention.The two best actors are Casares and Francois Perrier (Heurtebreze).There is a fine comic turn with great timing by Maria Dea(Eurydice) when she seeks to avoid Orphee looking at her for fear of returning to Hades. Then she is gilmpsed in a rear view mirror!But she is allowed to return by the Princess and Orphee ends up with his wife with a child on the way. This is a masterpiece playing on the connection between love and death which influenced Resnais' `Last Year in Marienbad' and Godard.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classical story, classic film, 8 April 2014
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This review is from: Orphée [DVD] [1950] (DVD)
I have loved this film for 30 years. It has many layers not least the Resistance twist. Cocteau is so clever with his simply achieved special effects decades before the increasingly dull computer-generated effects we see today.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FRENCH FILM BUFF, 11 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Orphée [DVD] [1950] (DVD)
HI GOT THIS DVD FOR MY HUSBAND AS WE SAW IT YEARS AGO AS HE IS A JEAN COCTEAU FAN, GREAT PRICE AND SUPER FAST DELIVERY FOR CHRISTMAS, THANK YOU
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Want to know how to become a great film maker?, 28 Jan 2013
By 
JDX (Yorkshire England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Orphée [DVD] [1950] (DVD)
Watch this film and then watch this film, and then watch this film. Having done that and thought deeply, watch the film again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical, 5 Jan 2013
By 
Peter Lock - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Orphée [DVD] [1950] (DVD)
One of my favourite films. There is something magical about this re telling of the Orpheus story. The film has an atmosphere all it's own and you find yourself drawn into it and taken literally to another world.
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Orphee [1950] [DVD]
Orphee [1950] [DVD] by Jean Cocteau (DVD - 2004)
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