Orpheus [Criterion Collection] [2 Discs] [DVD] [1950]

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Special Features

  • Audio commentary featuring French-film scholar James S. Williams
  • Jean Cocteau: autobiography of an Unknown (1984), a feature-length documentary
  • Jean Cocteau and His Tricks (2008), a video interview with assistant director Claude Pinoteau
  • 40 minutes with Jean Cocteau (1957), and interview with the director
  • In Search of Jazz (1956), an interview with Cocteau on the use of jazz in film
  • La villa Santo-Sospir (1951), a 16mm color film by Cocteau
  • Gallery of images by French-film portrait photographer Roger Corbeau
  • Raw newsreel footage from 1950 of the Saint-Cyr military academy ruins, a locatin used in the film
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Plus: a booklet featuring an essay by author Mark Polizzotti, an excerpted article by Cocteau on the film, and an essay on La villa Santo-Sospir by Williams


Cinematic poet Jean Cocteau explored the myth of Orpheus on no fewer than three occasions: Le Sang d'Un Poete (Blood of a Poet, 1930), Orphee (Orpheus, 1949) and Le Testament d'Orphee (1960). This second of his "Orpheus" trilogy stars Jean Marais in the title role. Updated to contemporary Paris (albeit a Paris never seen before or since), the story concerns a sensitive young poet named Orpheus, who is married to the lovely Eurydice (Marie Dea). Orpheus' friend Cegeste (Edouard Dermit) is killed in a traffic accident. In the hospital morgue, Cegeste's patroness, The Princess of Death (Maria Casares), revives the young man; then, both Cegeste and Princess pass into the Underworld. Back on earth, Orpheus receives cryptic messages from Cegeste's spirit, as well as nocturnal visitations from the Princess. Meanwhile, Orpheus' wife enters into an affair with Heurtebise (Francois Perier). After seeking advice on her mixed-up love life, Eurydice is herself struck down and killed by the same cyclist who snuffed out Cegeste's life. It appears to Heurtebise that the ghostly Princess has claimed Eurydice so that she, the Princess, can be free to love Orpheus. Heurtebise persuades Orpheus to accompany him into the Underworld in hopes of returning Eurydice to life. By now, however, Orpheus cares little for his wife; he is completely under the Princess' spell. Offered her own liberation from the Underworld by the powers-that-be, the Princess dolefullly agrees to restore Eurydice to life, and to never have anything to do with Orpheus again. Orpheus has weathered much controversy to take its place among the director's most acclaimed works. Originally released at 112 minutes, the film was whittled down to 95 minutes for its American release. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Jean Marais
    Jean Marais - Orpheus
  • Image coming soon
    Marie Déa - Eurydice
  • Image coming soon
    François Perier - Heurtebise
  • Maria Casarés
    Maria Casarés - The Princess
  • Juliette Greco
    Juliette Greco - Aglaonice
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