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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In film, Jean Cocteau found the perfect medium to portray his own
Though his involvement in cinema was uneven,
spasmodic and largely undertaken during later life, his fantastic
images, well-meaning amateurism and continuous self-preoccupation were
inspirational to the avant-garde and underground
By 1930, when Cocteau made his first film, he was already an established poet, novelist, dramatist and artist "Le Sang d'un poète" (The Blood of a Poet) was a characteristically romantic portrait of the artist structured as a surreal succession of images centered on a private mythology: desiring immortality, the poet, martyr to creativity, must first pass through a mirror into a deathly private dream-world Financed, like "L'Age d'Or," by the Vicomte de Noailles, its indulgent celebration of artists in general (and, therefore, Cocteau in particular) makes it inferior to Buñuel's film, but its strong, bizarre symbolism is often alarming
Excellent example of early surrealism on film. It is like going through a dream in which images come and go unbidden and with little apparent sense. This film is to be viewed in exactly that spirit. Switch off the need within you to make sense of it, to make it fit a linear state of mind and you will get the most out of it, and be a lot closer to what the director intended. Let the images wash over you, respond to them as images, not as tidy stories with beginnings, middles and endings that we are used to seeing in films. Like a dream it has it's haunting, almost familiar parts that we can know and recognize as well as the parts of our unconscious that we do not see as clearly but still we dream of them. Too bad surrealism in film never took off more than it did. Here we see a hint of the possibilities that still lie before us. Recommended highly.
This is an art film, plain and simple. Its one of those surrealist
films that has no actual narrative, just a series of seemingly
unconnected bizarre sequences. How much you enjoy "Blood of a Poet"
depends on how much you appreciate (or have knowledge of) surrealism.
Personally, I'm a big fan of the original movement and "Blood of a
Poet" is nearly as compelling as either "Un chien andalou" or "Dreams
That May Come True". Its beautiful, lyrical, and highly emotional and
personal (if completely abstract). Its as close as cinema can get to
actual poetry. Jean Cocteau has created a truly magnificent piece of
This is similar to many other surrealist films in that fact you're not supposed to get it. You're supposed to understand the emotion the artist puts into his work and the meaning (if there is any) is entirely open to interpretation. Similar to "El Topo" and "Eraserhead", the meaning isn't clear but the feeling completely comes through. Unlike those two previously mentioned films, "Blood of a Poet" is a decidedly more lighthearted work despite some (rather shocking for the time) violence. If you're into surrealism, by all means check out "Blood of a Poet". I certainly enjoyed it, but I couldn't wholeheartedly recommend it to most moviegoers. (8/10)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Blood Of A Poet is the first movie I've seen where 'like' or 'dislike' are out of question. It resists any attempt at entertaining and satisfying the viewer, it's a movie made for itself. Although there are actors, there are no characters, there's not a plot or a storyline, and the dialogue is just another element of confusion.
Cocteau made it deliberately so; capturing the full visual power of cinema, the filmmaker dazzles the viewer with wave upon wave of cryptic, beautiful, symbolism-heavy images that barely have cohesion between themselves. As it is, one is not supposed to 'enjoy' this movie, just to take in what is shown.
I am still a defender of cinema as a storytelling medium, the natural modern inheritor of theatre as a way to dramatise life, usually for our entertainment first, and, perhaps, only self-awareness later. However, I can't help respecting the importance experimental filmmaking has. For their audacity to produce uncompromising movies like The Blood Of A Poet, An Andaluzian Dog, The Golden Age and others, filmmakers like Luís Buñuel and Jean Cocteau have created a source of ideas, techniques, possibilities and themes from which more traditional filmmakers have taken ideas for the past 70 years, which have shaped cinema as we know it today.
A movie that has its own surrealist roots in earlier surrealist literature - Alice Through The Looking-Glass - Cocteau's debut movie has insinuated itself in the work of filmmakers as daring as him... ... the bourgeois playing cards under stree balconies that look like theatre balconies, with audience to boot watching the game, reminds me of the bourgeois eating at a table when a curtain raises and they realise they're on a stage before an audience, in Buñuel's The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie.
An artist who falls through a glass into a strange world of nonsense is very much like a scene in Lynch's Fire Walk With Me, where Laura Palmer goes through a painting; and in the last Twin Peaks's episode, after Coop is stabbed inside the Black Lodge, time walks backwards, just as it does in the room where a group of people are shoot before a firing squad, in Cocteau's movie.
The Blood Of A Poet is a movie that in the end resists full understanding, but welcomes endless interpretations, many of which are fascinating in themselves. A movie I'd never recommend to anyone wanting to have a 'good time,' but one of the most amazing movies I've ever seen in my life!
Jean Cocteau's first film subject- Blood of a Poet (episodes 1-4), all takes
place between a second's worth of measurement in time. A chimney falls to
the ground in a scene of pure demolishment, and for the more mysterious
glimpses in the film we see them happening in a second's flash as well (if
you blink you'll miss it).
Before I saw Blood of a Poet, I figured it would be a debut Cocteau attempting a Bunuel type of filmic showcase of a different, though somewhat simple story with anarchic, subversively funny dream shots of a purely surreal nature. Then, there is the first shot, the opening image of the man, the introducer, like a ghost or a character in a Greek tragedy. The first episode is "Wounded Hand of the Scars of the Poet". Right from the music a viewer can realize Cocteau's picture is apart from Bunuel's achievement(s). The latter has a technique of classical music (Wagner over a scene of imposed seduction, for example) while Cocteau has the music as inviting, jubilant, even, however all the wigged man is doing is painting a face. It's almost like a cartoon, and for a fleeting instant, the face on the painting has lips that move. This is more than the usual surrealistic stoke of the brush- this is the first sign in motion picture history of an artist (i.e. painter) converting ideas into an episodic format. The purpose is the same- abstract thinking- but the format is of a different mind-set.
That's the first episode, that gets the viewer in, as another wigged man enters- sort of shocked- and exits like the wind. A wire face spins and the lips moving again like the painting he created just before. It could be the illusion of a lifetime, or a trick of the white light seeping out of the crevices in the lips in his hand, but the man, like us, can't ignore it until it is no more. That Cocteau has an intended poetic voice here in his brand of surrealism is a bonus of sorts to the intellectual type of audience member. And, it's not a downer to those who might not be interested in a filmmaker's ego- the artistry overcomes the ego, for the most-part anyway.
The second episode is titled "Do Walls Have Ears?", when the artist gets rid of the mouth, but now the man, the artist, is trapped in the room with the statue as the guardian. This is the first sign of the instantly narcissistic mood of Cocteau in the statue, a director in and of itself delivering enigmatic, haunting statement the mirror, again, shows with narcissism- the necessary narcissism, the kind to know one's self AND how he falls within himself like water. As the artist goes through the abyss, he winds up at the hotel (right in-between this Cocteau throws in a cut-away of a man disappearing after appearing for a number of seconds, creepy in its non-sense). Then, the artist views an execution through a key-hole in a door.
(Oh, did I mention that some of the dialog is quite possibly backwards- otherwise, what else could be the explanation of the point of it, except for random gibberish?)
Themes of suicide come up, then, soon enough after, the artist tires of this to the point of him leaving, climbing on the walls. At the end of this totally hypnotic two-parter, we see the reason, at the last for a clear instant, his emotion is now purely terror (by breaking the mirror, Cocteau tries to break through his own narcissistic tendencies).
The 3rd and 4th episodes are another kind of two-parter, and they center on a snowball fight and a card game, respectively. "The snowball fight" is entirely representative of the (true) brutal, near-primitiveness of the realities that go with childhood, leading up to a battered snowball victim at the side of an elegant man and woman dealing a game with each other. Suddenly, during this ("The Profanation of the Host" as it's appropriately titles) surrealism is at an astonishing height for its time. One shot, in particular, seemed to be an inspiration for a part of the Jupiter landing in 2001. A card is lifted from the boy, an assist in the game, and the man ends up losing, the boy (and the black man) revealing disgust in the elegance of the situation of the game.
That's when it hit me, the message of Blood of a Poet. Behind beauty, as well as behind one's own desires and vision, even if we can't entirely explain why it's beautiful or why we hold these desires for ourselves is the darkness that beckons (perhaps in the slightest of moments of our lives) in our deepest, most assuredly dream-like delusions of grandeur. From this, you could gather, Blood of a Poet seems like it may not be for everyone, certainly not for those who can't even remember one dream from their entire life (personally I thought it contained inklings of pretentious gobledy-gook). But its nature is something to look for, and if you only see the movie once, you might not be sorry. Grade: A
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Jean Cocteau's "the Blood of a Poet" is a very strange film. Even by todays standards, but I can't imagine the response in 1930. The film was funded by the same producer of Bunuel/Dali's "L Age D Or"(1930). Cocteau considered the film expressionism even though it feels like surrealism. His goal was to film a poem. In the beginning of the film we witness a chimney collapse. Then we are introduced to an artist. He is doing a sketch and erases the mouth. The mouth appears on his hand and starts to talk. Then when his hand touches the statue, it comes to life. He enters the mirror and it takes him to a strange hotel, behind each door is something bizarre happening. One room a boy is trying to fly, another room there's a strange man with a spiral. Then the artist goes crazy and shoots himself. Then the film goes on to a dreamlike violent snowball fight and game of cards, and another suicide attempt. Very unique, highly surreal with slight homo-erotic overtones; "The Blood of a Poet" feels like waking up from a crazy dream!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In same time, an error and a masterpiece. A film in which history is only an political instrument. Strong, hilarious and aggressive. And a movie in which every detail is explore in fantastic way. So, the result is a schizoid work. Shadows of Jirinovsky and medieval air. A fake Ukraine and romantic sticks. A huge picture and a boring manifesto. But the delicate fact is the absence of Coctaeu. The director, in past maker of spectacular pages of lost history, is in this sad case only organiser of a French propaganda show. Enthusiastic and full of good intentions, he crushes the original story. Blood of a Poet is impressive; but only ornaments. The wood is far of the public. It is difficult to say if "The Blood of a Poet" is a disaster. The crumbs are good taste. The cake is old and strange. But the memory is more tempt by the beautiful coins and freaky costumes.
This is a truly unique masterpiece, whose influence can still be seen decades later. There will probably be a natural temptation to try to interpret, to ask "what does it mean?" Don't! That would break its magical spell and bring you back to the mundane world of the intellectual. It doesn't "mean" anything. It "means" everything. It "means" itself.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Heading home a few nights ago,I got a phone call from my dad telling me
that he had picked up something special which he expected I would like
taking a look at.Not having a clue what to expect,I was thrilled when I
realised that he had picked up about 40 different "Euro-Art Films in
Widescreen on Video! (I later found out that he had picked each movie
up for 50p,thanks to the seller at a pawnbroker's shop being about to
bin them all,due to them being "Videos")Checking the running times of
the films,I discovered that the first film by Jean Cocteau, (who,thanks
to a Ridley Scott audio commentary,I found had directed a magical
adaptation of Beauty and the Beast,which I had watched a number of
times during my childhood) was the title with the shortest running time
in the collection,that led to me deciding that my first "choice" from
the collection of Euro-Art Films, (which still contained a receipt from
HMV in 1994 for 17 pounds 49p!) would be Cocteau's first movie.
Part 1:The Wounded Hand: Being unhappy about a painting that he has been attempting to draw,a poet is startled when the mouth of the painting starts to move.Quickly rubbing out the painting,the poet finds out that his plan to destroy the painting has gone a bit awry,when he notices that the paintings mouth has transferred to one of his hands.Horrifed,but also fascinated by this weird incident,the poet experiments with the mouth,until he ends up transferring it from his hand to the face of a statue.
Part 2:Do The Walls Have Ears?: Finding the now talking statue to have a hypnotic like quality,the poet follows it orders by stepping into a hotel placed in an alternative like universe named:The Hotel of Dramatic Follies.Being horrified over the scenes that he witnesses of peoples follies,the poet shoots himself to get free from the statue's control and ends up smashing the statue into a thousand pieces.
Part 3:The Snowball Fight.Since having smashed the statue to bits,a new statue has been build in the former's place,celebrating the poet that destroyed the old statue.Playing snowballs near by the statue,a young boy is killed,when a snowball containing marble hits him.
Part 4:The Profanation of the Host: After dying,the boy's body lays under a table where some card sharks are playing,as his guardian angel attempts to absorb the boys soul,and the mystical power of the once broken statue seems to be getting more powerful than ever before.
View on the film:
For what would turn out to be the last film that he would make for 13 years,mostly related to the studio having to hold back from bringing the movie out for 2 years,due to all of the controversy that came from their 1930 Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali collaboration film:L'age d'Or.Writer/director/narrator Jean Cocteau does a clever mix of using "the poet" struggles with his artwork, (which includes an eye-brow raising scene,of the poet laying in bed with the paintings talking mouth on his hand,that he decides to "experiment" with, by placing the hand somewhere on himself that is out of frame (my guess being a sore knee) as a foundation for the more surreal images,with Cocteau showing that no matter how much he tries,the poet is unable to be separated from his work,to the point where a statue inspired by him,takes the places of a statue that he himself created.Along with the poet's struggle with art,Cocteau makes The Hotel of Dramatic Follies a terrific place to explore,filled with opium smokers and hermaphrodite's,whilst also turning the winter wonderland of The Snowball Fight into a wickedly dark nightmare tale.Creating a feeling that the movie is building towards a wildly surreal,dream/nightmare-like ending,Cocteau sadly stumbles during the last section of the film,by not featuring the presence of Enrique Riveros as the poet,which leads to the ending feeling unfocused and completely disjointed to what had taken place in the rest of the film.
Jean Cocteau was a French poet, painter, playwright, actor, as well as
film maker, and was a huge part of the artistic community at the time.
The Blood of a Poet (to use its English translation), is a very
personal piece of avant-garde cinema, that reflects the ideas of the
artist, and presented in a disjointed, surreal style, that is an
enigma, even on viewing a second time.
The Blood of a Poet has four sections that seem to have no connection at all. We begin with Enrique Rivero as "the poet", who paints a face who's mouth begins to move. After erasing it with his hand, the mouth transfers to him. After pleasuring himself with the mouthed hand, the poet transfers it to a female statue, who orders him to climb through a mirror, where he enters a new realm, one that holds doors into which the poet views some strange scenes. In another sequence a boy is killed in a snow ball fight.
The Blood of a Poet was the first in what became Cocteau's Orphic Trilogy, which continued with Orphee (1950) and Le Testament d'Orphee (1960). It's slow, poetic movements through some very beautiful imagery, are in themselves interesting at times. The film is practically silent, except that there is a partial narrative (that incidentally is far too poetically esoteric that we get no indication of what is happening).
The film begins with a title card that states; "Every film is a coat of arms. It must be deciphered." This seems to be its intention, to be such a piece of art that its meaning requires unravelling. Whilst this kind of riddle is often pleasurable, in this cause it seems that you may need to know much about Cocteau himself - I have only read one biography of the man. Although, his film work does improve; the other two in the Orphic trilogy are splendid, along with his incredibly poet, and dreamily beautiful adaptation La Belle et la Bete (1946).
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