an ancient tragedy sublimated by Bossa Nova (on Blu-ray and DVD)

Artistic note: Red StarRed StarRed StarRed Stargray star(4/5)


To escape a man who wants to kill her, a young country girl, Eurydice, takes refuge in Rio on the eve of the carnival. There she meets Orphée, a tram conductor adored by the people for his talents as a dancer and guitarist. But the newcomer attracts the wrath of Mira, Orpheus’ fiancée …

• Original title: Orfeu Negro
• Support tested: Blu-ray
• Genre: drama, musical
• Year: 1959
• Director: Marcel Camus
• Casting: Breno Mello, Marpessa Dawn, Lourdes de Oliveira, Léa Garcia, Adhemar Ferreira da Silva, Waldemar De Souza, Alexandro Constantino, Jorge Dos Santos, Aurino Cassiano, Maria Alice
• Duration: 1 h 47 min 31
• Video format: 16/9
• Cinema format: 1.37 / 1
• Subtitles: French
• Sound tracks: DTS-HD MA 2.0 monophonic Portuguese, French
• Bonus: combo with Blu-ray and DVD of the film – In Search of Orfeu Negro, documentary on the genesis, written and directed by René Letzgus and Bernard Tournois (2005, VOST, 1 h 25 min 11) – interview with Estelle-Sarah Bulle, author of the novel “Les Étoiles les plus filantes”, an imaginary history of the film Orfeu Negro (2021, 16 ‘) – interview with Anaïs Fléchet, lecturer in contemporary history, specialist in cultural relations between France and Brazil (2021, 32 min 38)
• Publisher: Potemkine Films

Artistic commentary

Filmed and released at the end of the 50s, in full swing of the New Wave and the political program of Brazilian renaissance (cf. bonus), Orfeu Negro surprises and fascinates: Palme d’Or at Cannes and Oscar for best foreign film, Marcel Camus’ film seduces audiences and critics alike. While Vinicius de Moraes managed to present his play “Orfeu da Conceição” written in 1942 in Rio on November 25, 1956, the project of a film adaptation was launched by producer Sacha Gondine. The screenplay by Jacques Viot and Marcel Camus takes up most of the play which transposed the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in the favélas and the carnival of Rio de Janeiro. Risky bet in 1958, the film will be shot on site with a cast of black actors only and for the most part, except the American dancer Marpessa Dawn (Eurydice) and the Brazilian actress Léa Garcia (Serafina), non-professionals: Orphée est played by a footballer, Bruno Mello, Death by an Olympic jumping champion, Adhemar da Silva, and Mira by Lourdes de Oliveira in the first of his only two films. Benefiting from limited means but fortunately supported by Brazilian President Juscelino Kubitschek, Marcel Camus will be able to film Rio at leisure and reconstruct part of the famous carnival! More than a simple modernized illustration of the myth, the filmmaker manages to immerse the viewer in the colorful and musical whirlwind that is the essence of Carnival. The chosen music calls on a multitude of Brazilian artists who produced an energetic reference soundtrack mixing bossa nova, samba, jazz and African-American songs (sequence of the macumba). The result is astounding and still continues to charm with its communicative energy which erases the sometimes outrageous play of certain actors and allows us to accept the fantasized Rio presented to us by the filmmaker. Its staging is excessively naturalistic but this triviality is constantly counterbalanced by the memorable music which sublimates all the sequences. Despite its ethnographic airs, Orfeu Negro is not, in fact, a documentary but an ancient tragedy with all that this genre supposes of distancing from reality. It is understandable that the Brazilians were critical of the singular, exotic and stereotypical image conveyed by the film, especially this atmosphere of joy and permanent music which was far removed from social reality. At any rate, Orfeu Negro is a festival of sounds and colors whose considerable influence has made bossa nova and the photogenic of Rio de Janeiro known to the world. The superb copy restored in 4K will allow you to better appreciate this modernized and successful reinterpretation of the Greek myth.

Blu ray Orfeu Negro

Technical commentary

Picture : HD copy, 4K restoration carried out in 2020 by Hiventy, excellent definition, very good sharpness in the details, regular silver grain (shooting in 35 mm, Master Format 2020 4K), controlled management of contrasts, bright image, clear blacks, very clean, warm grading and colorimetry, vivid hues (Eastmancolor) and saturated tones

His : Portuguese 2.0 monophonic mix, clear dialogues, excellent dynamics on atmospheres and catchy music by Antônio Carlos Jobim, Luiz Bonfá and others, no saturation or distortion or breath, excellent general balance; VF 2.0 monophonic, neat dubbing but much less convincing, which favors the treble and the top of the sound spectrum

Our opinion

Picture : Red StarRed StarRed StarRed Starhalf red star(4.5 / 5)
Sound mixes: blue Starblue Starblue Starblue Stargray star(4/5)
Bonus: Red StarRed StarRed StarRed Stargray star(4/5)
Packaging: blue Starblue Starblue Stargray stargray star(3/5)

IMDb :

Blu-ray / DVD combo available on Amazon

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an ancient tragedy sublimated by Bossa Nova (on Blu-ray and DVD)

Hank Gilbert