Jean Cocteau  

A classic surrealist. Cocteau was a multi-talented gay artist who tried his hand at writing, poetry, filming, painting and music. He was a self-proclaimed true modern artist that worshipped art for art's sake and often explored the process of creating art and the mindset of poets with self-references and personal exhibitionism. This often came out somewhat arrogant or pretentious, raising his own occupation to god-like levels, praising poets and their work to no end, stripping himself bare in a metaphorical sense as if his nudity by itself makes it all worthwhile, and preaching about art. This self-worship and pretentiousness came out in his movies in many ways. He praised the childlike ability to dream and think irrationally, to believe and experience things without intellectually analyzing them, and he thought this ability the ultimate human power and way to gain knowledge (all of which are philosophies of Surrealism). Except he took this to a self-indulgent extreme, as exemplified by his famous quote: "Asking an artist to talk about his work is like asking a plant to discuss horticulture". But ask any human about his work or hobbies, and he will gladly discuss it with you to death. Somehow art is so special and brainless it requires no thought and discussion, like a plant rather than a human? These ideas show themselves in most of his movies, but the following are the only purely surreal ones he made, the rest wallowing more in romanticism, dreams and fantasy than in pure surrealism. Died in 1963.

Of Some Interest

Blood of a Poet  
This was released at the same time as Bunuel's Chien Andalou. A surreal and metaphorical exploration of a poet's art, full of personal but obscure looks into Cocteau's past and events that shaped him, and the idea of a poet having to bleed or die in order to create art. Other ideas are explored such as the poet's work becoming alive and haunting him, reminding him of his past or flirting with him, the immortality of the poet and his essential death, and other impenetrable sequences and metaphors. All this is presented obscurely and bizarrely with painted mouths and statues coming to life, the poet falling through a mirror and walking on walls, a hermaphrodite's limbs in a wall, a girl learning to fly, etc.

8 X 8: A Chess Sonata in 8 Movements
See Hans Richter.

Testament of Orpheus  
Cocteau's last film comes full circle and densely re-explores and digs deeper into all the themes that occupied him in his life, mainly the ones about a poet's life and work, and his relationship with his subject matter. Cocteau himself stars in this movie and is haunted, tried, executed, instructed and followed by his own characters while they discuss, interact and explore this confusing, timeless world of art. It also looks again into the topic of phoenixology, the idea of dying in order to recreate oneself and come back to life. Contains a few interesting artsy insights, and some fascinating bizarre visuals, but stay away if you need a narrative.

1999- by The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre Table of Contents