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(Poster from the Independent Weekly, photo from The Hollywood Musical (sic) A Picture Quiz Book by Stanley Appelbaum. Sources include: Mythology by Edith Hamilton, Videohound’s World Cinema by Eliot Wilhelm, Tropical Multiculturalism by Robert Stam, New Brazilian Cinema, edited by Lúcia Nagib, International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Janus Films catalogue)

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…I seek one who came to you too soon.
The bud was plucked before the flower bloomed.
I tried to bear my loss. I could not bear it.
Love was too strong a god… (Hamilton)

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In the original story, Orpheus was given the gift of music by his mother, a Muse. His entrancing music was irresistible; only the Gods themselves played and sang more sweetly. Orpheus fell in love with Eurydice and they married, but their happiness was short-lived, for soon after the wedding, she was stung by a viper and died. Inconsolable, Orpheus decided to do what no mortal had ever done, journey to the underworld and plead with its ruler, Pluto, to release Eurydice from the land of the dead. Arriving in Hades, Orpheus told Pluto:

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Assignment 2 Analysis Assignment: Putting Things Together ..

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa and ongoing conflict in Syria, South Sudan, Iraq and Central African Republic are threatening lives and livelihoods.

The principles of unity and variety ..

While Moraes’ play had followed the Greek myth closely, Camus’ film was a much looser adaptation. In the film, Orfeu (the character who represents Orpheus) is characterized as the sun god, and solar symbols recur throughout the film, beginning with the opening image of a boy flying a sun-shaped kite. Two little boys believe Orfeu makes the sun rise with his guitar playing, and the samba school, to which all the lead characters belong and with whom they dance during Carnival, reinforces these symbols with their mythological Carnival motifs. Eurydice has a zodiac scarf, the characters live on the side of a mountain as if they are on Mount Olympus, home of the Gods, and Greek names are used for some of the characters, such as the kindly messenger, Hermes.

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While Brazilian film historians consider Black Orpheus to be French, French film historians often consider the film to be Brazilian. Black Orpheus was made by a French director, Marcel Camus, who was a contemporary of New Wave directors like François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, but not part of that revolutionary cinematic movement. But, the film was based on a Brazilian play, and features Brazilian actors, music, samba performers and technical crew. Only four members of the film crew were French. The main actors, mostly professionals from the Black Experimental Theater in Rio, were also Brazilian. Orfeu was played by Brazilian soccer star Bruno Mello and Eurydice by Pittsburgh dancer Marpessa Dawn, a member of the Katharine Dunham Dance Troupe.

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Melting Pluto’s heart, Orpheus was granted his request: Eurydice would be allowed to return to the world of the living, but only if Orpheus did not turn to see her until they had reached the upper world of mortals. Overwhelmed with a desire to gaze on the face of his beloved, he turned too soon, and she was lost to him forever.

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May « 2013 « Reviews by Josmar Lopes

Black Orpheus was shaped by six major influences. One was the popular trend of updating of classic texts to modern day milieus, as Eugene O’Neill did in Mourning Becomes Electra. The second was the continuing tradition of basing literature on the story of Orpheus, especially the first two films in a trilogy made in France on this theme by Jean Cocteau, Le Sang d’un Poet (1930) Orphée (1950). The third influence was the vogue for classic plays performed by all-black casts, for example, Orson Welles’ stage production, Voodoo Macbeth. Fourth was the French fascination for black culture, seen when cabaret artist Josephine Baker conquered 1920s Paris with her Revue Nègre. The fifth influence was the native Brazilian movement celebrating black African contributions to the culture. Finally, the film was clearly influenced by the popular all-black Hollywood musicals like Cabin in the Sky and Stormy Weather.

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