DIRECTOR: Jean Cocteau | WRITER: Jean Cocteau | CAST: Jean Marais, François Périer, María Casarès, Marie Déa, Henri Crémieux, Juliette Gréco, Roger Blin, Edouard Dermithe | France
It took me about 10 minutes to realize that I really never had seen Orphée before instead of having seen it so long ago I barely remembered the details as I had thought. What I was remembering were some of the famous set pieces both from Orphée itself and from films it inspired. I have actually seen La belle et la bête and I remember liking it some, but it was so long ago I barely remember it. In any case, I don’t have much patience for Cocteau the writer, and even less for Cocteau the man, and this film didn’t change my opinion.
The imagery and some of the visual effects in Orphée do still pack a wallop, but the poetry (both the actual scraps of poetry and the dialogue in the screenplay) of the piece sounds like the earnest writings of a pretentious teenager. I’m totally immune to whatever glamour and charisma Jean Marais may have possessed, but he must have possessed them in spades since his acting is wooden and he’s something of a cipher at the center of the movie. María Casarès as the princess looks and acts like a dominatrix in a hardcore bondage stag film from the period (think Maila Nurmi, not Betty Page) when she should have been a fiercely glamorous and threatening presence (Dietrich with all the lighting and makeup tricks in the book would have been perfect). That said, she’s pretty good. Marie Déa as Eurydice is charming, but François Périer as the princess’s chauffeur, Heurtebise, walks away with the movie. If only Juliette Gréco — the Bohemian lesbian biker chick head bacchante — had been given more to do!