The Blood of a Poet (1932) Poster

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8/10
"A realistic documentary of unreal events!"
Nazi_Fighter_David11 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
In film, Jean Cocteau found the perfect medium to portray his own personal mythology… 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…
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Celluloid Surrealism
Schlockmeister10 August 2001
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.
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10/10
Cocteau remains one of the forefathers of the art-film and of the 20th Century surrealism movement
MisterWhiplash24 August 2003
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
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10/10
Dream Like Expressionism meets Poetic Surrealism!
NateManD6 August 2005
Warning: 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!
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9/10
A Masterpiece of Half-Waking Beauty
popcorninhell29 February 2016
The Surrealist movement, as an artistic revolution has been utterly dominated by the name Salvador Dali at least in popular culture. Those in the know may be able to list a few other artists such as Roberto Matta or Max Ernst; perhaps make a tentative connection between Surrealism and Cubism and by extension Pablo Picasso. Even fewer people realize Surrealism has left an indelible impact on film which still seeps into the unconscious of many a-movie. Luis Bunuel's Un Chien Andalou (1929) stands as one obvious example but while Bunuel's career is infamous within cinema circles, many people don't consider French director, writer, and all around renaissance man Jean Cocteau to be part of the movement.

The Blood of a Poet is the first part of Jean Cocteau's Orpheus Trilogy (1932-1960); a loosely connected telling and re-telling of the well-known Greek legend. In this installment, our poet (Rivero) stands in a studio, painting on a canvas with the intensity seen in the most obsessive of human beings. His creations start to come to life, first the paintings then the sculptures. As he discovers the dreamlike dimensions of the room and it's contents, the poet goes into a fugue state falling through mirrors and peering through keyholes. The film ends with the destruction of a factory-type tower or smokestack precipitated by the constant appearance of a muse like figure. By the end she's lying in darkness with a lyre and a globe symbolizing Erato the muse of lyric poetry or maybe Urania the muse of astronomy.

Jean Cocteau is arguably most known for his poetry though he's dabbled in theatre, novel writing and of course film. In the realm of cinema his crowning accomplishment is The Beauty and the Beast (1946) which showed remarkable economy in storytelling and in special-effects. The Blood of a Poet however is a 55 minute concentrated dose of Cocteau at his most creative. Few films today can catapult it's audience into the outer limits of cinematic artistry and with today's spreadsheet, bottom-line obsessed studios there is simply no room for experimentation. Yet in 1930, one man was seemingly given unlimited resources to play with the form and unlike Bunuel's aforementioned Un Chien Andalou and L'Age d'Or (1930), Cocteau's oeuvre concentrates on the sublime not on the grotesque. Interesting to note that Cocteau had been dubbed by his contemporaries "The Frivolous Prince," for his bohemian lifestyle and romantic view of poetry. It certainly shows here.

Those who lived prior to the films release accused it of being anti- religious and delayed its release by two years. Modern skeptics complain that the film is incredibly pretentious and others still, express it is aggressively political in nature. They're not wrong; all the above can be true and false depending on your attitude and disposition. If you're one to take artist intent into consideration Cocteau wrote an essay on The Blood of a Poet contending that it is not a surreal film at all! But rather an attempt to "...avoid the deliberate manifestations of the unconscious in favor of a kind of half-sleep through which I wandered as though in a labyrinth." As with all surreal artwork, the film is ultimately an exercise in personal interpretation.

What remains certain is The Blood of a Poet packs more themes, more story, more experimentation and more beauty in it's scant screen- time than most TV-series' put into their entire run. The ingenuity and raw emotional power embedded in this film is stunning and are sure to bedevil you in your daydreams and in your sleep. I truly, in my heart of hearts believe The Blood of a Poet to be the ideal first film for those wishing to delve into Surrealism. Of course that's just my interpretation; I suppose that's the point.
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10/10
Beyond interpretation
William J. Fickling30 July 2001
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.
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Yes, Very Surreal.
Craig-3222 June 2000
Cocteau's first feature certainly reflects the early idealism of cinema, that "we can do it!" spirit that made early artists truly believe in the potential of cinema as a medium to trump all other arts. Thematically similar to the more famous surrealist work "Un chien Andalou," "Le sang d'un poete" is a chroma-key free-for all, with talking hands, statues that come to life, and banal bourgeoise cardgames transpiring on children's corpses. It's hard to watch at times, made even harder by what I think is a terribly distracting score (to the point where I just turned the sound off and enjoyed the film as a silent with subtitles.) However, by the end one realises Cocteau's heartfelt audacity, and the true spirit of the early cinema artists who wanted to do things with film that nobody has the cojones to try today.

A seminal work in experimentalist cinema; why does it seem like we've fallen way behind?
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6/10
A realistic documentary of unreal events
ackstasis10 December 2007
Though my experience is undoubtedly limited, I'm not usually a fan of surrealism or experimental cinema, usually dismissing them as exercises in pointlessness. However, my duty as a film buff tempted me to try my hands at Jean Cocteau's "Orphic trilogy", starting with 'Le Sang d'un poète / The Blood of a Poet (1930) {the remaining two films are, of course, 'Orpheus (1950)' and 'The Testament of Orpheus (1960)'}. Luckily the film was rather short, because I can't say that – on first viewing, at least – I got much out of it. There is certainly some very interesting imagery, and Cocteau has fun making use of his visual trickery {I particularly liked how the poet fell through the mirror}, but, once the hour was over, I simply didn't feel any more entranced, inspired or shocked than I had been prior to watching the film. Call it inexperience if you must, but I just didn't "get" what the film was trying to communicate, if anything at all.

As a random collection of bizarre and occasionally-invigorating images, 'The Blood of a Poet' works to a certain extent, but, if it ever aimed to shock its audiences, the effect is never anything to rival its surrealistic contemporaries, mostly notably Luis Buñuel's 'Un chien andalou / An Andalusian Dog (1929).' In Cocteau's keen eye for mind-tripping camera-work, there is certainly merit, though I doubt that the mere inventiveness of the visuals is the reason why the film is held in such reverence. Is the film simply a collection of random episodes designed to evoke an emotional response, or is there a deeper subtext that I'm overlooking? One interesting theory is that 'The Blood of a Poet' depicts the suffering of a poet, of an artist, and how this immense suffering is transformed into a work of art, something truly beautiful {one particular sequence supports this hypothesis, as a young girl responds to her cruel maltreatment by learning to fly}.

However, beyond this primitive inkling of a theory, I find myself thoroughly baffled by the events depicted in the film, which largely strike me as being random. In an essay he wrote about his film {included with the excellent Criterion Collection DVD}, Cocteau states that 'The Blood of a Poet' draws nothing from dreams or symbols, but that it, "as far as the former are concerned… initiates their mechanism, and by letting the mind relax, as in sleep, it lets memories entwine, move and express themselves freely. As for the latter, it rejects them, and substitutes acts, or allegories of these acts, that the spectator can make symbols of if he wishes." The precise meaning of these words still eludes me, but it sounds as though the director didn't ever intend for the film to make any sense, and that it is up to the audience to derive their own greater meaning from the collection of sounds and images. Maybe Cocteau knew exactly what he was doing, or maybe he just managed to convince us that he did.
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7/10
The Hotel of Dramatic Follies
morrison-dylan-fan25 August 2012
Warning: 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.

The plot:

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.
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unforgettable imagery of a poet
rogierr26 July 2001
This film could very well have been made in collaboration with Luis Bunuel (Un Chien Andalou '29, L'Age D'Or '30), but it is less experimental and I don't think Cocteau takes full advantage of the screen time: the pace is low and there are no really shocking elements. I have to admit it could be a little shorter (despite it's only 60 minutes). That's not because Cocteau really needs much time, but because it's just slow. But then again, aren't most of his films and does it matter? The cinematography in by Georges Perinal (Le Million, The Fallen Idol) and the music sufficiently contribute to the fabulous imagery. See this film.

There is a similar snowball-throwing scene in this film which was used also in 'Les Enfants Terrible' (Melville, 1950) which was also written by Cocteau as you can see from the title sequence, and was created by Jean-Pierre Melville (Le Samourai, Un Flic) with the famous Cocteau-atmosphere.

10 points out of 10 :-)
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10/10
NOT surrealism!
akells10 February 2007
This film is brilliant, but I do wish people would stop calling it a surrealist masterpiece! Cocteau was NOT a part of the surrealist movement - in fact the surrealists, especially Andre Breton, the founder of surrealism - hated him. I think it was Breton who said that Blood of a Poet was 'a bad copy of a surrealist film' (or words to that effect). And Cocteau never thought of himself as a surrealist.

Obviously, the word surrealism now is applied to anything strange, weird, wacky etc. But I think you do need to be accurate when discussing art that was made at a time when surrealism was a specific, and new, movement!
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9/10
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall...
Rindiana21 July 2009
While Bunuel's bitingly critical and ironically distanced surrealism is masterful in its own right, Cocteau opts for a highly personal, self-reflexive, distinctly poetic way to entrance the viewer's subconscious.

To grasp concrete meaning while watching this beautiful fleeting cinematic poem would be as futile as hammering a nail into a drop of water. Surely, its main concern is the fragile and, to be honest, quite vain self-image of the artist in a material world with all its obstacles. But closer interpretations wouldn't befit an enigmatic pic as this.

9 out of 10 collapsing chimneys
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7/10
What can we make of this OR what can it make of us?
jadavix10 March 2018
Warning: Spoilers
A theme throughout the short film is transformation. Works of art come alive, and then allow the artist to transform his hands, and then bring life to statues. Mirrors become portals, and through the portals, the laws of physics no longer seem to apply.

Snow turns, fatally, to marble when it is thrown by one student at another. Marble is, of course, the material that artists make statues out of.

The scene of the death of the student is also transformed when a crowd of theatre-goers look over it, transforming it into art, as though it was staged for their appreciation. A card game is played over the boy's body, where we have another death, this time of the losing player, and another transformation, as the female player turns into the statue we witnessed at the movie's beginning.

An obvious point to all this transformation is to make us regard the objects involved differently. I think it is quite hard to look at a statue the same way after we have seen it come to life on screen. The same goes, possibly, for mirrors. Both of these objects are fertile ground for surrealism as they are inherently strange. A strikingly lifelike statue already makes you question where art ends and real-life begins. The transformation of a statue into a living being is therefore not so bizarre; it's a universal fantasy played out on screen. The mirror is also ripe for surrealist implication as we have all doubted what it shows us. Entering a mirror and discovering a bizarre world on the other side is a demonstration of this experience.

There are also simplistic readings of some of the images on screen. When the artist acquires the mouth in his palm, the visual metaphor is obvious: as an artist, his hands do the communicating, therefore they have a mouth. Eyes, also, are often made prominent; there is at least one shot of a person wearing a mask which hides their whole face, except for the eyes. When the artist is looking through keyholes, one of the keyholes shows him an eye looking out at him. Again, the face of the person on the other side of the door is invisible, only the eye remains. Thus the eye is the most important part of the face, it's what we see with, and much of the film involves seeing, and people in positions where they can't do anything else - eg. the artist peering through keyholes, and the theatre-goers watching the card game.

This focus on eyes is one obvious point of comparison between "The Blood of a Poet" and "The Andalusian Dog". Everybody is familiar with the eye-slicing scene from that movie, which involves an extreme close-up of an eye, not unlike the eye the artist sees through the keyhole. Further, that movie features title cards with phrases like "once upon a time", "eight years later", "about three in the morning". These title cards seem satirical in that they add information that in another movie might be useful. Since the movie has no real story or timeline, however, the information seems mocking in that it doesn't help you to understand what is going on on-screen - in fact, it does the opposite. I felt the same way about the narration in "The Blood of a Poet", which I don't think really adds anything that might help you understand the movie, except perhaps for hinting that you are not necessarily supposed to understand it.

However, one interesting difference between "The Andalusian Dog" and Cocteau's movie is that the eye-slicing scene in the former is, even after all these years, distressingly realistic; "Blood of a Poet" has a shockingly violent scene of its own, but the shocking aspect is not its realism, but its lack thereof. I am thinking of the scene where a voice from off-screen tells the artist to shoot himself, and he complies. There is a lot of blood, which I imagine would have been controversial in 1930. However, the artist does not seem hurt.

Famously, Bunuel brought stones with him to the first screening of "Andalusian Dog", expecting a reaction so hostile that he would need ammunition to retaliate against the audience. I would be surprised if Cocteau expected a similar reaction. His movie is bizarre, also, but I feel it has more of a message than Bunuel and Dali, and less of a direct attempt to upset the audience.
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10/10
Magnifique*
whale_eyes1 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Spoiler Alert -- This appeared to portray a young man's suppression of his own sexuality.

I was instantly sucked in to the exploration of his own identity.

Standing half-nude, drawing a portrait of himself.

Being sucked into a mirror (himself).

Delving into bizarrely imaged fragments of his past.

The scene with all the young boys fighting.

The death of his true self.

The emergence of a statue, immortal. Which was portrayed as a woman.

-- This is what I grasped from the movie.

I highly recommend, if you are into surrealism.

10/10
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Piece of art that requires unravelling
tomgillespie20028 January 2012
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).

www.the-wrath-of-blog.blogspot.com
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8/10
Meaningful ambiguity of conscience
Polaris_DiB6 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Jean Cocteau's "Blood of a Poet" is, on the surface, something of a free-association creation of connected vignettes that embrace surreality and art. Stylistically, it's an exploration into the two-dimensionality of screen space and how the camera tricks the eye. Cocteau uses line drawings, perpendicular angles, and makeup effects to constantly trick and bend the eye between perceptions of depth, gender, and narrative.

But oh, that's not all! "Blood of a Poet", while not a dream-logic by technical considerations, is a pastiche of commentaries on, of course, society. The bourgeois are criticized for their spectatorship of each other, sexual curiosity leads to the promise of death, suicide dreams are simultaneously fulfilled and frustrated, and the public both enjoys and ignores the sadism of school-children: all in just 55 short minutes!

Apparently this was the first sound film in France, and like most first sound films, the sound doesn't sync quite the way modern audiences think it should. Luckily for it, the effect is somewhat more surreal from a modern standpoint because it goes against expectations. That said, the use of sound is very cogent and experimental as well, as Cocteau includes a very flamboyant voice-over narration and ambiguous uses of noise and music to effectively change the result of the images.

Finally, Cocteau is not above admitting the personal nature of the film by literally including inter-titles that explain how he cannot avoid getting trapped into the film himself. That, mixed with the film's embrace of dualities such as "this is a real documentary of unreal things" shows why this film isn't necessarily created to be understood, it's created to be experienced.

--PolarisDiB
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5/10
Another wtf moment from Surrealism's immature beginnings
rooprect30 December 2006
Let me preface this by saying Jean Cocteau was one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. Let me also say that his 1950 film ORPHEE is probably the best French movie I've ever seen. Furthermore, let me say that Surrealism is my favourite genre of cinema.

Now let's get to the nasty part. The 20s and 30s--the beginning of the modern Surrealism movement--were just that: the beginning. The artistic style was in its infancy, much like a 15-year-old kid playing with her first super 8 camera. There was a lot of experimentation, a lot of self-indulgence and a lot of "wow, what does this button do?" Films made during this period (such as Sang d'un poète, l'Age d'or, etc) are best enjoyed as historical documents. Cocteau would go on to create more lucid masterpieces like ORPHEE and BELLE ET LA BETE. Buñuel would also refine his art and give us TRISATANA, etc. But the early stuff? wtf.

A lot of you may be fuming at my irreverent perspective, but let me remind you that in the 1970s Buñuel himself said he wished he could burn all of his old works. I'm not sure if Cocteau took such a harsh stance, but I'm sure that even he felt that SANG was just a frolic compared to his later achievements.

With Cocteau (as with Buñuel), I advise you to start from the end of their careers and then work your way back in time. I'd hate for this to be anyone's first Cocteau film, because it might end up being the last! So what can you expect in this film? First the good stuff: You'll see a lot of highly innovative techniques. In particular, you'll see Cocteau playing with magnificent illusions such as "walking on the walls" which he would perfect 20 years later (see ORPHEE). You'll see his obsession with mirrors and the symbolism they conjure (again, see ORPHEE). And finally you'll see some nice reverse-filming techniques which would become the trademark of his masterpiece (take a guess... ORPHEE). In fact, this film is almost like a reel of outtakes from ORPHEE.

Aside from that, you won't get much of literary value, which is ironic because Cocteau was such a great writer. What I mean is that you won't get any plot, any coherence, any cohesiveness, or anything you can say to someone who asks you "what was the film about?" This is the kind of film you might see playing in the background of some uber hip nightclub, because it certainly has a lot of mood. But as far as sitting on the couch and watching it... I dunno. I kinda wish I had the last 50 minutes of my life back.
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6/10
A strange and baffling film for fans of surrealism mainly
Red-Barracuda27 December 2012
Surrealist cinema was at the height of its powers between the mid 1920's to the mid 1930's. For obvious reasons, the silent era had been particularly well suited to visually strong films. Like Luis Buñuel's L'âge d'or, The Blood of a Poet is one of the later films from this period. And both incorporate limited sound. In the case of this movie it is mainly music, with a little synchronised dialogue. It's a film that gives the impression of having an overall purpose and meaning but I have to admit, I really have no idea what it was. I found it baffling but interesting enough in a strange dream-like way. And at 50 minutes it hardly overstays its welcome. It's consistently well photographed and there are memorable sequences such as the hotel of strange rooms and the falling into a mirror moment. So, mainly, the film was of interest to me as an example of creative surrealism. But as to what it means? Ah, well, your own your own there I'm afraid…
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2/10
looks like a home movie made with an 8mm camera!
MartinHafer2 July 2005
I LOVED Orpheus and Beauty and the Beast--both Jean Cocteau masterpieces. However, this "movie" doesn't really appear to be a movie at all, but looks like a lot of little skits Cocteau created to amuse his friends--sort of like performance art, not cinema. There is absolutely no coherence whatsoever or theme. And this is NOT just because he adored surrealism. You can have surrealism in a movie provided it's not just bits and pieces of celluloid pasted together--which is what this is.

Maybe this film would have best been shown at some gallery where they have "new wave" art. I could see people looking at jars of placentas, cow excrement statues, a yodeling woman standing in a bucket of Jello and this film being played all at the same time. That's the sort of reason I could see for making the movie.

Many of the segments in the film were just camera tricks Cocteau was working on as an experiment. With MOST directors, the tricks and home movies they make do not make it to the cinema--but for some odd reason this did. They are sometimes COOL camera tricks, but that's all--I certainly would NOT want to pay to rent or to go see his little experiments. The only good from this mess I can see is that some of the tricks he used later appeared in much more polished form in Orpheus--such as running the film backwards or building rooms that were upside down or sideways. Cool tricks, but that's all. Watching this film is like staring at rough drawings that will be used for set designs or matte paintings--interesting but only a tiny piece of a whole movie.

So, it's pretty much a waste of time to see this, though I guess it is interesting to see a few statues come to life, the man wipe the smile from the painting and it becomes ALIVE and stuck on his hand, AND you get to see a couple people blow their brains out--complete with copious amounts of blood! If this ain't performance art, I don't know what is!
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surrealistic masterpiece:cocteau belonged more in film than literature
John31 October 2001
A magical little movie that, as another reviewer so well put it, 'means itself'. the imaginatively tame and purely cerebral, of course, shouldn't touch it. i don't much like cocteau's literary work and find it on the whole to be labored, monotonous, pretentious and boring. his verbal 'surrealism' never seemed to me to be worthy of the name, it just seemed like incomprehensible,almost annoyingly sarcastic jargon that made my eyes water. (like some of beckett's stuff.) but cinematically, i can't deny that he could pull it off--and how. i may not be a fan, but i recognize visual surreality when i see it, being an avowed surrealism addict. this one ranks up there with some of bunuel and bergman's stuff in terms of its sheer fascination and genuine merit, and as soon as i finished watching it i watched it again almost immediately. i repeat, don't even bothering trying to interpret it intellectually or rationally, and this applies to surrealist film as a whole. it appeals to the unconscious mind and the imagination, not to reason. (david lynch is the jean cocteau of our time!) A must.
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1/10
Horrible--don't bother.
letterladyz19 September 2003
In short, this film was horrible. It reminded me of something out of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. The only thing that made it bearable to those of us in the theatre (made up of University students of many different backgrounds and nationalities) was the ablility to laugh at it--from the twitching doorknob in the beginning right down to the final scene.

The only part that was bearable was when the words "Le Fin [the end]" popped up on the screen--and we all knew that our 55 minutes of torture in the name of culture were over.
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8/10
The Conscience of a Killer
gengar84313 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Here's my interpretation. As a young man, the artist, as the bully, killed a boy (the snowball fight) and covered it up. As he grew, he became an artist, not interested anymore in fighting (the artist ignoring the battle outside), a consequence probably of his conscience. He became involved with a woman (the statue, the card player) who knew nothing of his past. This, I think, is so deep and meaningful, that we never know the history of the person we are with unless they choose to share it. The artist is so filled with self-loathing that he commits suicide. This explains the revolver, and even the firing squad. The mirror, the reflection of ourselves, draws the artist into his own mind where he has trouble escaping. While there, he views many escapes for himself, including death, opium, flying away (a fantasy).

The mouth on the hand seems to me much more symbolic of narcissistic behavior. It is masturbatory. This concept is fortified such various elements as the artist being half-dressed, showing off, and even the hermaphroditic scene. The artist lives in a world of self-love but it cannot bury the past, the killing of the boy, which haunts him.

I do not know if Cocteau drew on his own experience here, or if this was anecdotal to his life, or even if it was imagination.

Anyway, just some food for thought!
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