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The power of cinema-A reflection from Black Orpheus (Orfeu Negro)

Ever since I came off from projects,I have been catching up on my habit of film watching. This afternoon I decided to catch Marcel Camus’ classic- Black Orpheus. It was a coincidence that I ever knew about this film was from a classmate who I know her well. I was doing my work when she whatsapp me on asking what films I want as she was in the library. She suggested  Orpheus,of course I was thinking of Jean Coeteau’s Orpheus as I really wanted to watch it for a while.  She recommended me a title because of a script I wrote was based on Greek Mythology. However she surprised me when I saw this title,Camus’ Black orpheus . Normally I don’t see my film cohort being that keen in art-house or classic films (I am the only one in my batch that watched a varied amount of films). Of course I was delighted that I can see that I make a small impact to my classmates of watching films that is beyond their comfort zone. Pity that it was in Blu-ray,and I have to find the DVD version of it.

Now fast-forward to today,I decided that I would just curl up to this film in my new movie room (small television and DVD player,not the fanciest but it beats nothing to me hogging my parents’ television time for film-watching). Those who are unfamiliar to this film,it was basically a retelling of the Orpheus myth in one of the most important festivals in Brazil-Carnivale,a village girl meets a trolley man. There with my green tea cuppa and some snacks,I started watching this film with no expectations.

After I watched this film,after a long hiatus of bottling my emotions, I was overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of Orfeu Negro. I became like a child,I cannot put in my adult rational in that film. I could recall a few times where I was overwhelmed by a film and changed my life.

There is Across The Universe,that is where I wanted to create films that “changed the world“. I was a naive dreamer then at 19. Along came David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia,that shook me to the core. There comes Yume by Akira Kurosawa. In my film screening classes I seen Match Factory Girl (I was in tears when I talked to my lecturer about this film),Of Time and The City,Bresson’s Pickpocket and A Man Escaped. This semester I was mind-blown by The Diving Bell and The Butterfly and Antonia’s line. At home,I was overwhelmed by Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon,The Pianist and Amadeus. For some reason I have that tendency to suspend my rational and simply watch it as if it was in the audience’s perspective.

Perhaps Orfeu Negro impacts me even more because I just needed to watch films to get away from the stress of film school and my dilemmas for my future. It was rare for me to become speechless after watching a film. I have seen sights of Brazil in travel documentaries in television where people gleefully said here is the beautiful city and show the typical sights of Brazil. However Marcel Camus transported me into the chaos of the Carnival with such eye-popping visuals of colour. I mean I cannot shake that feeling that I thought I was in the crowd itself.

There came along the bossa nova soundtrack which peeped up otherwise tragic tale of Orpheus and Eurdyrice which I am familiar with. The tunes adds that authenticity of Brazil which is rare to find in your typical travel shows.

For once I feel so many emotions,I laughed at the silly antics,I grew upset when I see Orfeu’s grief and was even angry on Mira’s cruel treatment on Eudryrice. I was surprised that I feel hopeful at the idyllic ending when I see the tragic death of the lovers. It kindled me a memory form watching Jean Renoir’s The River few months ago. For some odd reason both have somewhat philosophical endings,it said hey life goes around whenever the circumstances.It was pure beauty. I somewhat smiled at the ending which was a shock to me.

Somehow Orfeu Negro restored my faith in cinema as I recalled a moment where I cried at Jeff’s doubting in Mr Smith Goes to Washington. I just needed that punch from my cynical self of going through shoot and shoot . As one of my favourite film Tumblr blogs Salesonfilm summarized that feeling “it’s like when you see a fellini for the first time after being raised on the cheap american fanboy simulacrum canon for twenty years and you just feel like crawling into a ball and weeping because you realize you’ve been wasting your life on movies and not cinema and all the possibilities of art assault you with their beauty and you feel ugly because of it.”  It’s like rediscovering what is the connective tissue of cinema as Lord Puttnam talked in a seminar,is unifying people of different continents to see a film that is so relatable. I then need to stop bitching to myself that no one would have that capacity to watch this type of films,because I am the only one who understands it. Orfeu Negro’s beauty is perhaps the purest,it was about unrequited love and jealousy which everyone can relate to,whenever you are an American student or a Chinese clerk. If it could unite a person who is unaware about art cinema,like my classmate who is into action and thriller films then cinema have done its job. It connects people together because they will share the same feelings too with you. That is the beauty of cinema which I learned today from watching this film. No matter what your taste,values or whatever,we are connected by that tissue.

To end off my reflection,here is a quote of another favourite film of mine Cloud Atlas

Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others. Past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.

Like how we needed others,perhaps cinema bound everyone,no matter what circumstances. A film can change the world and mindsets. To me that is why I am always falling back to the world of cinema



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