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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.

James S. Williams

collaboration in Chapter 5 . L’Aigle à deux têtes/Les Parents terribles So far we have traced the imbrication of fantasy and realism in Cocteau’s film work. We pass now to L’Aigle à deux têtes (1948), which constitutes Cocteau’s first screen adaptation of one of his own plays and his initial attempt to balance cinema with the theatre. Jean Marais and Edwige Feuillère had already starred

in Jean Cocteau
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James S. Williams

7 Les Parents terribles , 1948. Yet another gagging in Cocteau’s cinema with the focus again on hands: Mic has just revealed to his mother the monstrous truth that he loves a young woman 8 Les Parents terribles , 1948. The penultimate shot, a backward tracking that accompanies Yvonne as she

in Jean Cocteau
James S. Williams

. Cocteau had already, of course, responded to Marais’s artistic requirements in 1938 with the play Les Parents terribles. Fearing typecasting as an action hero, Marais had wished to play a nervous and confused man, not pretty and prone to tears. (As it happened, Marais ended up playing a host of swashbuckling parts following his performance as the eponymous highwayman in Billon’s Ruy Blas (1947), scripted by Cocteau.) And it

in Jean Cocteau
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James S. Williams

great cinematographic genres, from the early avant-garde with Le Sang d’un poète (1930–32) to fairytale fantasy with La Belle et la bête (1946), historical melodrama with L’Aigle à deux têtes (1948), domestic bourgeois drama and vaudeville with Les Parents terribles (1948) (regarded by Cocteau himself as his greatest success), detective thriller and mystery with Orphée (1950), to finally the

in Jean Cocteau
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James S. Williams

Mystery (1980) (a version of L’Aigle à deux têtes) , Eric Rohmer’s L’Anglaise et le due (2001), which reworks the opening scene of L’Aigle à deux têtes and bears many thematic resemblances (false doubles, miraculous resemblances, etc.), and Josée Dayan’s Les Parents terribles (2003) starring Jeanne Moreau and François Berléand. remake as homage: the case of Jacques Demy

in Jean Cocteau
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body and sexuality in reverse motion
James S. Williams

deux têtes , and the stifling and wretchedly jealous Yvonne in Les Parents terribles (the latter two roles played by Yvonne de Bray, Cocteau’s archetypal ‘ grand fauve ’). This degree of abandonment to the monstrous surprises of the machine is a sign of Cocteau’s absolute commitment to ‘monstration’, or the act of showing forth (Latin: monstrare , to show), that is, to presenting events mimetically in

in Jean Cocteau
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Le Sang d’un poète
James S. Williams

work, whether literally, as in the case of the evil dwarf Achill in L’Eternel retour spying through prohibited doors, or conceptually, as in the highly intimate close-up framing of the characters in Les Parents terribles. This process also recalls F. W. Murnau’s later practice of Kammerspiel with its claustrophobic environments and enclosed frames where victims are visibly caught in their fate despite the amount of

in Jean Cocteau
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Orphée
James S. Williams

) Cocteau was already at work on Orphée in December 1947 even before he began the filming of Les Parents terribles. Yet despite his strong track record and prestige in French cinema, he was initially unable to find financial backing for the film. Potential producers even regarded the script of Orphée as sinister. This unexpected disappointment, a Cocteau paradox, i.e. renown matched by a lack of true recognition, would

in Jean Cocteau
Abdellatif Kechiche and the politics of reappropriation and renewal
James S. Williams

simultaneously in the audience and watching the action on stage, or on the stage itself focusing in close-up on particular figures and observing the audience, or else circulating backstage in the wings and dressing-room. The excitement of the performance is further increased by the immediate editing style, including the use of dry cuts into extreme close-up that recall the vertiginous claustrophobia of Jean Cocteau’s more aesthetically stylised Les Parents terribles (1948). Kechiche is driving home, here, the continuing pertinence of Marivaux’s comedy about the dynamics of

in Space and being in contemporary French cinema