Tram driver Orpheus (Breno Mello) is engaged, reluctantly, to showy Mira (Lourdes de Oliveira) but he meets, chases and seduces, through his music, the innocent Eurydice (Marpessa Dawn) who has fled to her cousins as she has been scared out of her own home. This all happens with the backdrop of the riot of colour and music of the Rio carnival. The film begins with a heady whirl of dancing and joy, which is at odds with the underlying theme of the film - being haunted by death.
The carnival scenes are where this film succeeds, the bossa nova soundtrack from Antonio Carlos Jobim is highly infectious, and the samba dancers are so energetic you feel like carrying on the party in your own home. Unfortunately though the main storyline seems rather clumsy and half formed. For the majority of the film the plot seems like just a device to go from one splash of Rio carnival to another.
Some of the characters are portrayed rather clumsily and one dimensional, Serafina and Chico for instance are the comedy duo of the piece and no one questions Orpheus infidelity to Mira and they also support her in her murderous jealous rage.
At the time of its original release it was critically acclaimed and won numerous awards: The 1960 Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language film, and the 1959 Palme d’Or from Cannes. It introduced the world to a different music sound and in that the film is at its most successful.
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