In a career which spanned four tumultuous decades of French history, few men can claim to have been more influential or culturally important than Jean Cocteau. He began as a poet and that influence remained throughout his career as a writer, playwright and film director. As a key player of the avant garde he was a touchstone for many and involved with some of the most famous voices of his generation. He only made a handful of films but La Belle et la Bête and Orphée remain great pieces of cinema. The latter, released in 1950, is truly magical.

Set in (then) contemporary Paris, Orphée (Jean Marais) is a renowned poet who has a difficult relationship with his wife Eurydice (Marie Déa). Whilst visiting the Café des Poètes he encounters a budding young poet (Edouard Dermithe) and his patron, the Princess (María Casares). When the youth gets in a brawl and is run down, Orphée’s presence is required as a witness. However, he soon discovers that there’s a lot more to the Princess and her chauffeur (François Périer) than meets the eye.

Based on the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice, Cocteau swaps the lute for the pen; transforming the tragic hero into a bard. This gives the classic tale a personal dimension and feels at times like a treatise on the art. The juxtaposition between normal life and ‘the zone’ adds a touch of magical realism. Whilst the ordinary becomes extraordinary. It’s a familiar tale but one which feels fresh and fascinating. Orphée is a metaphysical mystery. A saga of the ages.

Special Features:

  • Presented in High Definition
  • Feature-length commentary by Roland-François Lack
  • Jean Cocteau by Pierre Bergé and Dominque Marny (2008, 35 mins)
  • Memories of Filming by Jean-Pierre Mocky and Eric Le Roy (2008, 16 mins)
  • Jean Cocteau and His Tricks (2008, 14 mins)
  • The Queer Family Tree- Reflections on Jean Cocteau (2018, 15 mins)
  • La villa Santo Sospir (1952, 38 mins)
  • Theatrical trailer
  • 2018 Re-release trailer
  • Stills Gallery
  • Illustrated booklet featuring essays by Ginette Vincendeau, Deborah Allison, William Fowler and Sarah Wood

Orphée is released on Blu-ray by the BFI on 28 January.