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Vanessa McMahon

Vanessa is a novel writer, screenwriter, rep and a film producer. She shares her discoveries and film surprises. :-)



LOOKING BACK, Cinema's greatest moments... BLACK ORPHEUS (ORFEU NEGRO; 1959)


As the 65th Cannes Film Festival (May 16-27, 2012) approaches I am reminded of one of my all time favorite Palme d’Or winners, the French/Italian/Brazilian production of BLACK ORPHEUS (Orfeu Negro; 1959).

Directed by French director Marcel Camus, the film received worldwide critical acclaim. At home in Brazil, however, it received much criticism due to its cliché portrayal of Rio favela life; as if every day in such desperate poverty is solely a celebration of love and life. Indeed the film romanticized favela life, but despite its downfalls it became a canon in cinematic history for bringing Rio de Janeiro to the world and thereafter the world to Rio de Janeiro. As tourists the world over traveled to Brazil in search of a piece of the paradise depicted in the film, Rio after ‘Orfeu Negro’ has never been the same.

The film is based on the play ‘Orfeu da Conceição’ by Brazilian writer Vinicius de Moraes, which itself is based on the Greek myth of star-crossed lovers Orpheus and Eurydice. The film is accompanied by a timeless Bossa Nova soundtrack composed by musicians Antônio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfá. Due to the international acclaim of the film, it not only brought Brazil Carnival life to the public eye but also the lyrical bittersweet tunes of Bossa Nova music to the mass public ear and has since become a type of popular music adored the world over. Bossa Nova itself is otherwise known in Brazil as ‘chiclete com banana’ (bubble gum and banana) in order to signify its roots in American jazz mixed with the tropical sounds indigenous to Brazil.

As director Roland Joffe would say: 'If the image is the body of film, the music is its soul'. The music of Orfeu Negro indeed is the soul of the film here. The song ‘A Felicidade’, for example, holds in it the happy sadness of carnival in the favelas of Brazil which is the feeling in most Bossa Nova songs; that while life is hard and poverty and sadness rampant, the people sing and dance and act happy, under the grand illusion that life is sweet.


-written by Vanessa Mc Mahon; April 23, 2012



Portuguese Lyrics of ‘A Felicidade’ by Antonion Carlos Jobim


"Tristeza não tem fim. 
Felicidade sim. A felicidade é como a gota 
De orvalho numa pétala de flor. 
Brilha tranquila 
Depois de leve oscila 
E cai como uma lágrima de amor. A felicidade é uma coisa louca 
Mas tão delicada também.
 Tem flores e amores
 De todas as cores
. Tem ninhos de passarinhos
. Tudo de bom ela tem E é por ser assim tão delicada
 Que eu sempre trato dela muito bem. 
Eu sempre trato dela muito bem. Tristeza não tem fim. 
Felicidade sim."



English Translation:


"Sadness never ends. 
Happiness does. Happiness is like a drop
of dew on a flower petal. 
It shines quietly 
And then swings lightly
and falls like a love tear drop. Happiness is a crazy thing. 
But it’s also so delicate
. It has flowers and love
 of all colors. 
It has bird nests. 
All good things. And because it’s so delicate 
Is that I always treat it very well. 
I always treat it very well. Sadness never ends. 
Happiness does."


view trailer of the classic here:




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