Orpheus (Orphee) (1949)
Director: Jean Cocteau
Writer: Jean Cocteau (from 'Orpheus' legend)
Notable Actors: Jean Marais
I absolutely love Cocteau's special effects, particularly his use of reverse motion. I wish directors still used this technique in films; though it is clearly not real, there is something highly compelling about watching people move in reverse. It looks dream-like and even hypnotic. It is used beautifully in La Belle et la Bete and again in Orphee. These two are the only Cocteau films I have seen, but have thoroughly enjoyed both of them.
This film plays with the 'Orpheus' legend, making mirrors the gateways to the Underworld. Much is not explained, which again is good; exposition often removes the 'magic' from the story. The relationships between characters were far more complex than in the original story: Orpheus loves his wife and Princess Death, and at one point I was certain he was going to throw his wife over to spend forever with Death.
I felt like I was often floating along with this film, simply following where Cocteau took me. It is not as great as La Belle et la Bete, but definitely essential viewing for film lovers, particularly those of us who enjoy interesting special effects.