Marcel Camus' 1959 update of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, star-crossed lovers, features an Afro-Brazilian cast and a story set in the frenetic energy of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Orpheus, a charming streetcar conductor and superb samba dancer, is engaged to Mira but in love with Eurydice, a bashful and unassuming girl who has recently come to the city in an attempt to escape a mysterious man who appears to be out to kill her. Orpheus and his new soulmate are pursued through the frenzied Carnival night by a vengeful Mira and a determined Death, always just a few steps from disaster.
Upon its release in 1959, Black Orpheus won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, and since then it has sustained a cult following and status as a modern classic. It captures the precious moment in time when Brazil was transitioning into a modern nation, and distills the beauty of the Brazilian people and landscape and the Technicolor radiance of Carnival.
Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfa, two prime movers of the Brazilian music scene of the 1950s forward, were enlisted to compose the score. Overpowering samba rhythms pulsate through the film from start to finish, and the film's rhythmic underpinning is what makes it pure magic that barely needs words. Music lovers everywhere are indebted to Black Orpheus for bringing samba and the graceful, aching melodies and harmonies of bossa nova to the rest of the world. --Maria Brubeck
In Portuguese with English subtitles. Presented on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2:30 p.m. as part of A Year at the Movies: Rediscovering Classics, a series that screens videos from the 1920s to the '60s from the Carolina Theatre's collection. Includes pre- and post-film discussions with Laura Boyes, N.C. Museum of Art. Main Durham County Library, 300 N. Roxboro Road, Durham. 560-0171. Free.