Orphée review – Cocteau's classic never looks back

Jean Marais’ journey through the underworld gains new strangeness and rapture in this restoration of Jean Cocteau’s 1950 Orpheus myth

Jean Cocteau’s Orphée from 1950 is now re-released nationally, as part of the BFI Southbank season: Fantastique: The Dream Worlds of French Cinema. It has the mystery and elasticity of a dream, and all the farcical comic horror of chancing across the intricate contents of the Blessed Virgin’s lingerie collection. Cocteau’s reworking of the Orpheus myth includes new layers of strangeness and rapture. The setting would appear to be the present: that is, postwar France; Orphée (Jean Marais) is a celebrated poet – sufficiently celebrated, in fact, to be at one stage surrounded by excitable young autograph hunters that might otherwise be entranced by the burgeoning pop culture. Orphée witnesses a noted younger poet being killed by a couple of bikers after a brawl: this is Cégeste (Edouard Dermithe
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