Thursday, May 24, 2012

Orphée / Orpheus

Orfeus / Orfeus. FR 1950. PC: Les Films du Palais-Royal. Original distributor: DisCina. EX: André Paulvé. D+SC: Jean Cocteau. DP: Nicolas Hayer. AD: Jean d’Eaubonne. Cost: Marcel Escoffier. M: Georges Auric. Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (1762), "Dance of the Blessed Spirits" with the flute solo. S: Calvet. ED: Jacqueline Sadoul. Narrator: Jean Cocteau. C: Jean Marais (Orphée), Maria Casarès (La Princesse / La Mort), Marie Déa (Eurydice), François Périer (Heurtebise), Henri Crémieux (l'éditeur), Roger Blin (the poet), Juliette Gréco (Anglaonice), Edouard Dermithe (Cégeste), Pierre Bertin (le commissaire), Jacques Varennes (judge), Jean-Pierre Melville (hotel manager), Jacques Doniol-Valcroze (young man at Café des Poètes), Jean-Pierre Mocky (le chef de bande). Dedicated to Christian Bérard. Helsinki premiere: 16.3.1951 Gloria – VET 33349 – K16 – 95 min. A 2K DCP from Pirkanmaan Elokuvakeskus / Europe's Finest with Finnish subtitles viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (I Love You, I Film You), 25 May 2012.

Revisited the beginning of Jean Cocteau's masterpiece which never loses its enchantment. The opening credit sequence hand-drawn by Cocteau himself, based on the theme of reflection. The brilliant, affectionate parody of the  post-WWII Existentialist café scene, Café des Poètes standing in for Café de Flore. The black Rolls-Royce taking us to the beyond, the landscape turning to a negative like in Nosferatu. The weird messages Orpheus starts to hear from the car radio: "La silence va plus vite à reculons. Trois fois." "Les miroirs feraient bien de réfléchir davantage. Une fois." "L'oiseau chante avec ses doigts". Walking through the mirror, waking up at the beach, Jean-Pierre Melville as the hotel manager, Juliette Gréco as Eurydice's best friend ("her female league has power"). The scandal press ready to report about the night escapade of Orpheus with the princess (who is Death). Orpheus stepping on the baby clothes that Eurydice has been knitting. "You cannot live in a talking car", reproaches Eurydice. "The least of these radio messages is better than my poetry" (the messages have by now been reduced to series of numbers). "We have been dead already without noticing."

I came to check the quality of the 2K DCP, and it was a pleasure to observe the fine quality of the digital transfer in the close-ups, the medium-shots, the interiors, and the café scenes (with stone, glass, and metal). First with the nature scenes there are problems, especially at night. But for the young viewer who first sees Orpheus like this it's not a bad way at all.

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