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Testament of Orpheus (1960)

Le testament d'Orphée, ou ne me demandez pas pourquoi! (original title)
Not Rated | | Biography, Fantasy | 18 February 1960 (France)
The Poet looks back over his life and work, recalling his inspirations and obsessions.



Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. See more awards »
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Complete credited cast:
Himself - the Poet


The poet Jean Cocteau is lost in space-time. He has been in the 18th century and is now turning up at different moments in professor Langevin's life. The professor has invented some bullets, which travel faster than light. With one of them he kills Cocteau, who is resurrected as his old self, but is still caught in the space between fantasy and reality. At a gypsy camp a woman saves a photo out of the fire and restores it. On the photo Cocteau recognizes Cégeste from his film Orphée. He tears the photo into pieces and throws it into the sea. Immediately Cégeste himself jumps out of the water. He brings Cocteau to a rogatory commission led by Heurtebise and The Princess from the film Orphée. Cocteau admits that he has constantly attempted to enter a world which is not his own, a world that is beyond the limits of man, and that disobedience is like a religion for him. The commission imposes on him the sentence of life. In a hall inside some stone ruins the goddess Athena kills Cocteau ... Written by Maths Jesperson {maths.jesperson1@comhem.se}

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Biography | Fantasy


Not Rated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

18 February 1960 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Le testament d'Orphée  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Finnish censorship certificate register # 75193 delivered on 10-3-1967. See more »


Jean Cocteau - The Poet: And the flower?
Cégeste: Take it to her. After all, the goddess is a woman and women never object to being offered flowers
See more »


Featured in Brows Held High: Beauty and the Beast: Part 1 (2014) See more »


Orphée et Eurydice
Composed by Christoph Willibald Gluck
See more »

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User Reviews

The Last Laugh And Testament of Jean Cocteau
5 October 2014 | by (Derby, UK) – See all my reviews

Ever since I first saw Orphee decades ago I thought it one of world cinema's Greats, a work of Art and underplayed panache that literally transcends Time. That was Part 2 of Jean Cocteau's Orpheus cycle in 1949 – in 1932 Part 1 Le Sang D'un Poete set the scene in a whimsical primitive way, and Testament was the convoluted Part 3 which became his final film released in 1960. First thing – if you enjoyed Orphee I recommend not watching this immediately afterwards, it's a contrast between gold and brass. Second thing - if you don't like pretentious art films this is a special case, it's still by far the best pretentious film I've ever seen and worth watching for its self-confidence. If you do like pretentious art films then to come clean I'm one of the denser people so disparaged by the previous exalted commenter therefore I have nothing I can impart to you. I've always considered this only as Cocteau's Testament – it's all about him and his thoughts of posterity at 70.

Cocteau as film maker and poet stands between two worlds accused of being guilty of Innocence and is condemned to Life while his last film makes itself around him. There's a lot more to it, involving going backwards forwards and sideways in Time and Timelessness with or without trick photography, all of the cast large or small spouting cod-heavy aphorisms with gossamer realism or relevance. It gave him a chance to revisit the subject, and as he admitted at the end of the film to give some of his old friends (Casares, Perier, Dermithe etc) a job in the revisiting – after all, he was by now to use his own words from Orphee now "rotten with success" and could get away with murder. He died twice in here – even the Motorcyclists Of Death only wanted his autograph - and he lived and died to tell the tale. I can see where Banksy got his inspiration for his recent Mobile Phone Lovers from. I take away the image of Cegeste's image being saved from backward burning only for the image to be torn to pieces, that cerebral scene was worth the eighty minutes! The twenty minute wordy trial scene gets tiresome as you gradually realise its pointlessness apart from the padding out of the temporal running time. But there's plenty of tremendous imagery and heavy moralising throughout; Cocteau was incredibly talented, big on surrealism the occult and symbolism of all kinds, all more or less intellectual dead ends and as with many other big thinkers full of mumbo jumbo before and since he agonised over the merits and demerits of the Catholic Church, another dead end. Whereas with Orphee he made a film that could be enjoyed over the generations by all kinds of people with various levels of brainpower he created here a film so obscure it only plays like an in-joke raspberry to the world of the end of his life.

So there you are – I do quite like Le Testament D'Orphee so hopefully Cocteau won't be sad wherever he is, it's just I'm not a poet and have an old nose for Art and Artifice. No matter how unique or interesting this film is to me or even for that matter to those of a higher intellect, he was simply having a laugh.

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