The Vintagent Classics: The films that inspired us.

Orphée (Orpheus) (1950) 

Run Time: 1:35:00
Director: Jean Cocteau
Writer: Jean Cocteau
Key Cast: Jean Marais, François Périer, María Casares


In 1949 Jean Cocteau adapted the Greek myth of Orpheus to the cinema, in a contemporary setting of post-war Europe. His use of motorcycles in this dark, evocative tale set the pattern of associating Death with Motorcycles in film forever after, and established the Dark Rider phenomenon in the popular imagination.  In short, Cocteau was the first to associate motorcycles with menace in the arts: previously, they had merely been interesting kinetic props, but Cocteau, already famous as a Surrealist poet and playwright/set designer before WW2 in France, was first to see something very different and dark on two wheels.


In Cocteau’s film version of the myth, Orpheus is a poet whose fame is great, but who lacks respect from the new, young, existentialist/beatnik poets who hang out at the Café des Poétes.  While visiting the café, Orpheus is disrespected by the very drunk but very hot new poet Cegeste, who is shortly killed by a dark pair of motorcyclists roaring past.  A rich woman in a Rolls Royce (the Princess), who escorted Cegeste to the cafe, orders Orpheus to help carry the body of the young poet in her car.  She reveals to Orpheus that she is Death, and the lethal motorcyclists are her henchmen.  Orpheus and Death fall in love, and Death sends Cegeste’s poetry through the radio in her Rolls to Orpheus, who becomes obsessed with this poetry and with Death herself, and ignores his beautiful wife Eurydice.

– Paul d’Orleans


Read more on The Vintagent: Death By Cocteau