Friday, March 02, 2012

"I am a lie who always speaks the truth."

Our final European film director is the reverie-inducing Jean Cocteau.

Cocteau worked as a poet, novelist, dramaturge, designer, artist and even helped create some ballet along with writing a libretto or two.  Oh, and he made films.  All in all, something of a layabout....

I jest, of course.  Recounting Cocteau's achievements in even a few of his chosen art forms would take far longer than I have to discuss him, especially as I've only chipped away at the top of the iceberg myself.  He is perhaps best known today for his beautifully filmed rendition of Beauty and the Beast (1946), and for the Orpheus trilogy (The Blood of a Poet (1930), Orpheus (1950) and The Testament of Orpheus (1960) ).

My first exposure to his work was while in college.  A friend in an avant-garde jazz band invited me to a screening that his group would score of a Man Ray short and Cocteau's Blood of a Poet.  It was an immensely enjoyable evening, but what struck me most was the reaction of the crowd to Poet.  Though Cocteau's camera tricks were easy for me to decipher, it was wonderful how these fairly simple in-camera effects still drew gasps of surprise from the crowd.  If anything, it proved that it's not the complexity of the trick, but rather the simple elegance of how you pull it off.

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