chapter  3
Myth, Melopeia , and Mimesis: Black Orpheus, Orfeu, and Internat ional izat ion in Brazilian Popular Mus ic
ByCharles A. Perrone
Pages 26

Orfeu negro (Black Orpheus), the 1959 film of F rench director Marce l C a m u s , a l though not a Brazilian product ion , has wielded a t r emendous in f luence on the

const ruct ion of Brazil's image abroad. Forty years after its release, that c inemat ic

success remains a f u n d a m e n t a l point of re fe rence for any discussion of percep-

tions of Brazil in other countries. As one t eam of observers has clearly explained,

the film "has almost certainly b e e n seen by more non-Brazil ians than any other

film shot in that country and is likely to have provided a first in t roduct ion to Bra-

zilian cu l ture for more Europeans and Nor th Americans than any other art

work."1 W i t h respect to Brazilian popular music , a key instance in its a t t a inmen t

of global reach, and in the process of locating its historical place in the interna-

Myth, Melopeia, arid Mimesis 47

t ional a r ena , is cons t i tu ted in Black Orpheus. T h e widespread effects of t he land-

mark film are c o n f i r m e d in t he t es t imony of a prest igious c o n t e m p o r a r y singer-

songwri ter of Brazil wi th extensive foreign exper ience , C a e t a n o Veloso:

W h e n we arrived in London in 1969, record-company executives, hippies, and

intellectuals, everyone we met, without exception, referred enthusiastically to

Black Orpheus as soon as they were informed that we were Brazilians. . . Even

today there are endless repetitions of narratives of discovery of Brazil by foreigners

(rock singers, first-rate novelists, French sociologists, actresses, debutantes), all marked by the unforgettable film of Marcel Camus.2