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Director:Jean Cocteau
Cast:Jean Marais, Marie Déa, François Perier, Maria Casarés, Juliette Greco
Release Date:1950
Genre:Foreign, Fantasy, Classic

At the Charles Theatre at noon May 20, 7 p.m. May 22, and 9 p.m. May 25.

By Bret McCabe | Posted 5/17/2006

Like Jean Cocteau’s earlier La Belle et la Bête, the poet-turned-creative superhero imaginatively updates a myth—in this case, Orpheus’ underworld journey to retrieve his love, Eurydice—and turns it into this scintillating 1950 visual feast. And in translating the tale to the existential bohemia of the post-WWII Left Bank, Cocteau magically orchestrates a fever dream of captivating, hallucinatory power that reeks of smoky sensuality. Poet Orpheus (Jean Marais, Cocteau’s partner) suffers an indelibly French case of midlife ennui when along comes Death, in the guise of corseted beauty María Casares, along with her chauffeur and two black-leather-clad motorcyclists, and she eventually has to take his wife (Marie Déa) off to the nether world. Barely altering the story, Cocteau works his surreal magic in the details of primitive special effects and the movie’s whole fetishistic love-death thrill ride that would blossom into modern flaming-creature fireworks in the underground works of later vanguards such as Kenneth Anger and Jack Smith. Keep an eye out for the young, über-cool hottie Juliette Gréco as über-cool hottie Aglaonice, leader of the “League of Women.”

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