Friday DVD Review: Jean Cocteau’s ORPHEUS (1950)


Judgement: Your name?

Orpheus: Orpheus.

Judgement:Your Profession?

Orpheus: Poet.

Judgement: It say’s here ‘writer’.

Orpheus: It’s almost the same thing.

Judgement:There is no ‘almost’ here. What do you mean by ‘poet’?

Orpheus: To write, without being a writer.


I love ambition and audacity.

Not alone. Alone they are bitter and brutal sins, but alloyed to art and humanity, ambition and audacity makes for cinema at its finest.

Cinema such as that of Jean Cocteau.

I’m watching his ORPHEUS, which is very stream of consciousness, an odd mating of deliberation and fancy. The film is not as good as his BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, is a bit plodding and unlikeable, mostly because the central character of Orpheus is plodding and unlikeable.

A few times I almost shift away from it. But I stick, and it’s largely because its story is secondary to its visual poetry; is secondary to the ambition of Cocteau’s imagination and the audacity of his storytelling and effects.

Costumes change colors in mid conversation, mirrors are walked through, death is made life. Just the sheer creativity of this film makes me smile. I couldn’t give it a buy, but it’s a recommended rental. Just be aware going into it, that you have to take the film at its pace rather than yours, and I think you’ll find ORPHEUS a dream…. worth dreaming.

Grade:B-.

Orpheus (Criterion Collection)

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