Black Orpheus

Film
HEART ON A STRING Mello, left, picks his way into Dawn's heart.
HEART ON A STRING Mello, left, picks his way into Dawn’s heart.

Time Out says

Protocol dictates that a reviewer mention something of the plot and characters before him. And when the film in question is one as primally joyousas MarcelCamus’s 1959 Oscar-winning Black Orpheus, set in a vibrantly alive Rio de Janeiro, surely such a task shouldn’t seem a chore. But let’s not kid ourselves. If ever there was a movie as rapturously—even solely—about its music, it’s this one.

Black Orpheus announced Brazil’s bossa nova loudly and proudly to a huge international audience, one that would never shimmy up to a prospective lover quite the same way again. Strummed in the film’s ghettos by passionate troubadours, blared from its Carnaval rafts and suffusing its incidental soundtrack, the percolating beats have the power to render any romantic scene tender, any exchange of dialogue witty. The film’s composers, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonf, would go on from their toe-tapping contributions to even more success—Jobim in particular with “The Girl from Ipanema” three years later. But the movie stoked the interest that made the song a phenomenon.

Oh—the story is an updating of the ancient Greek myth about the renowned lyre player and tamer of wild beasts, whose love for Eurydice proved his undoing. If you want the unvarnished favela, rent City of God. Happy? (Opens Fri; Film Forum.)—Joshua Rothkopf

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