Black Orpheus (Orfeu Negro) (1959)
Director: Marcel Camus
Few films are as colourful, musically energetic and tragic as Camus' Black Orpheus. As someone who loves Greek mythology, and in particular enjoys the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, I had high hopes for this film, all of which were met. It sticks reasonably close to the myth, with some interesting adaptive choices.
The cast are all good, with the two leads, Breno Mello and Marpessa Dawn, especially lovely. You understand their instant attraction, and believe that Dawn's Eurydice would inspire Mello's Orfeu to sing such beautiful love songs. And they are very romantic songs!
The film's highlight is surely the Carnival, which manages to be exciting and fun, yet full of menace and danger (mostly for Eurydice). The black sky makes the colours of the costumes pop, and the shadows hide the figure of Death who is pursuing Eurydice.
I enjoyed this film a lot. It reminded me of West Side Story, with its tragic love story and energy in telling its story. To me, Mello and Dawn are more believable as lovers, with their strong chemistry which makes us pardon Orfeu's lying to his girlfriend (her obnoxiousness helps too!). If you don't like musicals you may enjoy this one, as the songs are less theatrical than your typical Hollywood fare.