|Directed by||Jean Cocteau|
|Produced by||André Paulvé|
|Written by||Jean Cocteau|
|Music by||Georges Auric|
|Editing by||Jacqueline Sadoul|
|Running time||95 min|
Orpheus (French: Orphée; also the title used in the UK) 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.
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 is 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. They believe it to have been a dream, Eurydice is revealed to be alive, and expecting a child.
Main cast 
- Jean Marais – Orphée
- François Périer – Heurtebise
- María Casares – The Princess – Death
- Marie Déa – Eurydice
- Henri Crémieux – L'éditeur
- Juliette Gréco – Aglaonice
- Roger Blin – The Poet
- Edouard Dermithe – Jacques Cégeste
- René Worms – Judge
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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.
- Orpheus at the Internet Movie Database
- Orpheus at Rotten Tomatoes
- Orpheus at AllRovi
- Criterion Collection essay by Jean Cocteau
- Criterion Collection Essay by Mark Polizzotti