The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

November 13, 2009

Review: Social events influence movies during filming

This review will focus on three movies that, while completely unrelated, share a certain unifying characteristic: They were all filmed in locations with actual social events occurring in and around the film production.

The resulting products are filled with a refreshing spontaneity and sense of being “alive” that was achieved both because of, and in spite of, the remarkable situations surrounding their production.

“Black Orpheus” (not rated)

This is the classic Greek story of Orpheus and Eurydice, as retold in a modern context and set in Brazil, during the time of the annual Carnaval. The story is simple and fairly straight-forward (although I won’t spoil the ending), but the movie positively shines with music and raw energy.

I tried to think of another movie that featured such a persistent beat and so many ecstatically dancing extras, but I simply couldn’t do it.

Sumptuously photographed in color, the movie lavishes attention on the Brazilian locales in which it is set. Everything in the movie seems beautiful, even the ramshackle homes the characters share with their chickens and goats.

They go to work, earn a little money, play music and dance into the night. In the world of “Black Orpheus,” such a life is paradise.

An utterly unique movie experience, masterfully directed (or perhaps “reined-in” would be a better term) by legendary French director Marcel Camus, Black Orpheus was the winner of the 1960 Oscar for best foreign language film.

“Medium Cool” (rated R)

Of the three movies featured in this column, perhaps “Medium Cool” had the most at risk during its production.

Unlike the guarantee of frenzied madness during Carnaval or a rock concert, “Medium Cool” was based partially on an assumption that something dramatic was going to occur during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Luckily for the production, something dramatic happened there — in a big way.

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