The Blu-ray Disc
Black Orpheus is presented in 1080p high definition with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. This edition marks a big improvement over the previous Criterion DVD, which was released all the way back in 1999. The image here is consistent and clean, and looks very film-like with a nice layer of grain present. Some of the colors — yellows, reds and greens, in particular — are quite stunning. The image isn’t eye-poppingly vibrant and does retain a bit of a faded, dated look in some shots, but overall, this is a very pleasing transfer.
The audio is available in a lossless PCM Portuguese track as well as lossy English dub. For a monaural soundtrack, the mix is still fairly hefty, with the film’s bossa nova score the most prominent element. Dialogue is mostly clean and clear, if a bit tinny at times, but overall, it sounds great.
Criterion has upgraded Black Orpheus significantly in the extras department as well — an easy improvement over 1999’s feature-less disc. This is a well-rounded collection of extras that focuses on the film’s place in history as well as the criticisms leveled against it for its portrayal of Rio’s slums. Archival interviews with director Camus and actress Dawn are quite short, but a nice inclusion.
Film historian Robert Stam addresses the film’s criticisms in another piece while Gary Giddens and Ruy Castro discuss the bossa nova craze, and the part that the film played in it. Both are well-researched pieces that place the film in an excellent historical context.
Rounding out the supplements is a feature-length documentary ostensibly on the film, but more about the film and music history of Brazil, as well as Carnaval. The theatrical trailer is also included, along with a booklet with an essay by critic Michael Atkinson.
The Bottom Line
This is easily the edition to own of Black Orpheus, with highly improved picture quality and a nice collection of extras from Criterion.