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A Feature film by Jean Cocteau

Produced by Productions André Paulvé, Films du palais royal

Release in France : 29/09/1950

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Actors (23)

Production and distribution (3)

Executive Producers :

Productions André Paulvé, Films du palais royal

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Set in contemporary Paris, the movie is a variation of the classic Greek myth of Orpheus. At the Café des Poètes, a brawl is staged by acolytes of the Princess (Casares) and the young poet Cègeste (Edouard Dermithe), a rival of Orpheus, is killed. Cègeste's body is taken to the Princess's car by her associates, and Orpheus (Marais) is asked to accompany them as a witness. They drive to a chateau (the landscape through the car windows are presented in negative) accompanied by abstract poetry on the radio. This takes the form of seemingly meaningless messages, like those broadcast to the French Resistance from London during the Occupation.

Orpheus becomes obsessed with Death (the Princess). Heurtebise (Périer), her chauffeur, entertains analogous unrequited love for Orpheus's wife Eurydice (Marie Déa). They fall in love. Eurydice is killed by the Princess's henchmen and Orpheus goes after her into the Underworld. Although they have become dangerously entangled, the Princess sends Orpheus back out of the Underworld, to carry on his life with Eurydice, but he cannot look at her or she will die. (This diverges from the common classical account found in the Roman versions of the myth by Ovid and Virgil, where Eurydice is lost forever.) They believe it to have been a dream, Eurydice is revealed to be alive, and expecting a child.

Source : Wikipedia


Orpheus (French: Orphée) is a 1950 French film directed by Jean Cocteau and starring Jean Marais. This film is the central part of Cocteau's Orphic Trilogy, which consists of The Blood of a Poet (1930), Orpheus (1950) and Testament of Orpheus (1960). The trilogy has been released as a DVD boxed set by The Criterion Collection.

Throughout Orpheus , Cocteau uses very simple special effects and trick shots to show his characters passing into the world of death and back to life: They do so by stepping through mirrors, or else the film is reversed.

Cocteau adds many elements from the culture of his time. For example, the messengers of the Princess of Death are grim, leather-clad motorcyclists. The underworld is represented by buildings in France which remained in ruins after World War II, and Orpheus's trial in the underworld is presented in the manner of an inquest held by officials of the German occupation attempting to discover members of the French resistance. At the very end of the film, the Princess and Heurtebise are prisoners, brought forward to face the tribunal, ominously elevated on a pedestal above them.

Most notably, the element of the myth in which Orpheus looks back at Eurydice as she is being led out of the underworld, exactly what he was told not to do and which causes him to lose her, is represented by Orpheus happening to glance at Eurydice in the rear-view mirror of a car.

In popular culture
A film still was used for the cover of 1983 Smiths single, "This Charming Man". Parking, a film from 1985, was a remake of it.

The clip for a-ha's Take on me was partly inspired by this movie.

Sound bites of the messages on the radio are sampled in DJ Culture by Pet Shop Boys and by Tilt in the track 'Seduction of Orpheus'.

The film is referenced explicitly in Canto IV of Geoffrey Hill's long poem "The Orchards of Syon".

Ranked #84 in Empire magazine's "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema" in 2010

Source : Wikipedia

Photos (22)

Full credits (17)

Assistant Director :

Claude Pinoteau

Producer :

André Paulvé

Director of Photography :

Nicolas Hayer

Camera Operator :

Noël Martin

Editor :

Jacqueline Sadoul

Continuity supervisors :

Sylvette Baudrot, Claude Vériat

Music Composer :

Georges Auric

Narrator :

Jean Cocteau

Location Manager :

Jean-Marie Loutrel

Dialogue Writer :

Jean Cocteau

Screenwriter :

Jean Cocteau

Sound Recordist :

Pierre Calvet

Production Manager :

Emile Darbon

Assistant editor :

Hélène Basté

Production Designer :

Jean D'Eaubonne

Costume designer :

Marcel Escoffier

Still Photographer :

Roger Corbeau

Technical details

Feature film

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Themes :

Death, Poetry, Justice

Production language :


Original French-language productions :


Nationality :

100% French

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French release :


Runtime :

1 h 35 min

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Color type :

Black & White

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Posters (6)


Festival Selections (5)

Istanbul Film Festival - 2000

Istanbul Film Festival (Turkey , 2000)



Venice International Film Festival  - 1950

Venice International Film Festival (Italy, 1950)


Official Competition