Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Do I want to sit through more Cocteau? I have Orpheus and The Testament of Orpheus to go yet. Sometimes you have to approach these things like a student -- suffer to learn. Actually, I have seen Orpheus before and liked it. Maybe Cocteau just isn't triple-feature material for any but the committed. Maybe he's preferable on, say, a piecemeal basis.

*****

Marginally interesting historical note: Had Cocteau actually seen Un Chien Andalou before making Blood of a Poet? I glanced through my old Bunuel notes. Cocteau says he didn't, others say he did but they conflict as to when, exactly.

In his memoir My Last Sigh Bunuel says Cocteau was there on opening night, part of a "sprinkling of well-established artists" that included Picasso, Le Corbusier, and the composer Georges Auric." Also in attendance: Andre Breton's Surrealist group – a notoriously tough crowd. They loved Bunuel's film, and would later loudly hoot at Cocteau's.

Cocteau's biographer, Frances Steegmuller, says he saw Bunuel's film at the home of the Vicomte Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles, the wealthy art patrons who would finance both Cocteau's film and Bunuel's follow-up, L'Age d'Or -- which was so blasphemous it would end their movie-making career. Cocteau would later cite Un Chien Andalou as one of the great works of cinema, along with The Gold Rush, Sherlock Holmes, Jr., and Potemkin.

"Hollywood was becoming a deluxe garage," Cocteau wrote, "and its films were becoming more and more like sumptuous makes of automobiles. With Un Chien Andalou we were back at the bicycle."

Still, give Cocteau his due:

"And surrealism? Wasn't it, too, born from the work of Poe as much as from Lautreamont? That school of literature certainly had an enormous influence on film, especially around the years 1925-1930, when surrealism was brought to the screen by Bunuel with L'Age d'Or and Un Chien Andalou; by Rene Clair with Entr'acte, by Jean Epstein with The Fall of the House of Usher and by Jean Cocteau with The Blood of the Poet. I was influenced by all this, as you can tell by certain dream and fantasy sequences in some of my films . . . " – Alfred Hitchcock, from Donald Spoto's The Dark Side of Genius.

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