Jean Cocteau, the first French writer to take cinema seriously, was as old and young as cinema itself; he made his first film in 1925 and completed his last film when he was 70. This book first deals with the issue of the type of film maker that Cocteau was: as a auteur, as a collaborator, as an experimenter, and as a theorist. It takes the pulse of Cocteau's cinema by examining in detail his ground-breaking first film Le Sang d'un poète', and argues that the film offers a vision of the potential of film for Cocteau. The book traces the evolution of realism and fantasy in Cocteau's work by introducing a main element, theatre, and assesses the full gamut of Cocteau's formal inclinations: from the legend and fantasy of L'Eternel retour to the spectacular fairytale of La Belle et la bête; from the 'film théâtral' of L'Aigle à deux têtes to the domestic melodrama Les Parents terribles which 'detheatricalises' his original play. In Le Testament d'Orphée, all the various formal tendencies of Cocteau's cinema come together but with the additional element of time conceived of as history, and the book re-evaluates the general claim of Cocteau's apparently missed encounter with history. The book considers whether the real homosexual element of Cocteau's cinema surfaces more at the most immediate level of sound and image by concentrating on the specifics of Cocteau's filmic style, in particular camera angle, framing and reverse-motion photography.
S’il vous a déplu, j’en serai triste, car j’y ai mis
toutes mes forces comme le moindre ouvrier de mon équipe’. 1 In fact, shortly before his death
in August 1963, Cocteau recorded one last film, a twenty-five-minute short
entitled JeanCocteau s’adresse à ‘l’an 2000.
It was wrapped up, sealed and posted, to be opened only in the year 2000. As
it turned out, it was discovered and exhumed a few years shy of that date
Mon Jeannot – ma force, c’est toi, ma
patrie, c’est toi. (My Jeannot – you are my
strength, my homeland.) (J. Cocteau)
In a photograph by Robert Doisneau
taken in 1949 during the shooting of Orphée and called simply
‘Jean Marais, JeanCocteau’, Cocteau, looking towards the camera
angel of light, with the angel of machines, the
angels of space and time, this is work to my measure.)
JeanCocteau (b. 5 July 1889, d. 11
October 1963) was, as he often liked to point out, as old and young as
cinema itself. The first French writer to take cinema seriously, he made his
first film in 1925, a 16 mm short now lost, entitled JeanCocteau fait du
JeanCocteau nous prouve inlassablement que pour
savoir faire du cinéma il nous faut retrouver Méliès,
et que pour ça pas mal d’années Lumière sont
encore nécessaires. (J.- L. Godard)
(JeanCocteau tirelessly proves to us that in
personal crisis, specifically the sublimation of unrealised love Cocteau
felt for intimate friends such as Radiguet (see Springer 1989 and Weiss 1995 ). The critic Milorad, who
presided over the Cahiers JeanCocteau and possessed inside knowledge
of Cocteau’s life, has offered the most exhaustive dissection yet of
Le Sang d’un poète , paying particular attention to the
(symbolic) death of the child and the (real) death of the father (see
A. ( 1997 ),
Queer Space: Architecture and Same-Sex
Desire , New York, Williams Morrows.
Brown , F. ( 1968 ). An Impersonation of Angels: A Biography of JeanCocteau , New York: The Viking Press.
J. ( 1943 ),
Le Mythe du Gréco , Paris, Au
, Pierre Belfond.
J. ( 2003), Entretiens sur le
cinématographe (L’Edition anniversaire) (eds A. Bernard and C.
Gauteur), Paris, Editions du Rocher.
J. ( 1992 ),
JeanCocteau, Orphée: The Play and the Film (ed. E. Freeman), London,
Bristol Classical Press.
J. ( 1995 ),
Alla storia preferisco la mitologia, perché la storia parte dalla verità
e finisce nelle menzogna, mentre la mitologia parte dalla menzogna
e va verso la vérità.
(I prefer mythology to history, because history begins with truth and
ends in lies, while mythology begins with lies and arrives at the truth.)
Bernardo Bertolucci’s La via del petrolio (1965) is a documentary made
for RAI television in 1965. The film was commissioned by the Italian
oil company Eni (Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi) in 1964. It is in three
parts: ‘Origins’ / ‘Le