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Jean Cocteau

Page history last edited by Ian Stephens 14 years, 9 months ago

  "A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

                                            -Jean Cocteau (1)


 Jean Maurice Eugene Clement Cocteau was born July 5, 1889 in a small town just outside of Paris, France. In addition to being a director, he was also a poet, novelist, composer, painter, playwright, set designer, and actor. He began writing by the age of ten and was published by the age of 16.


He grew up in Paris and, due to the social placement of his family, he was able to claim the benefits of society's upper-class. Some of this privilege was attending theater and arts at a young age.(2)


At the age of 17 or 18, he fell in love with an actress by the name of Madeleine Carlier who was 30 years old at the time. She later broke off the relationship.


He collaborated with the Russian Ballet company of Sergei Diaghilev, and was active in many art movements.  He always remained a poet at heart, and the films he created are a testament to this fact. His films are a great example of what is great about French Cinema. Cocteau can also be regarded as an early pioneer of Queer cinema.


Cocteau was homosexual and made no attempt to hide it. His favorite actor was his close friend Jean Marais, who appeared in most of his films. He made about 12 films in his career, all are rich in symbolism and surreal imagery. Cocteau is regarded as one of the most important avant-garde directors in cinema.(3)


The first world war broke out in 1914. Although he never served in the military, he did work with an ambulance service and returned to civilian life in 1915.


When the war ended, he continued his associations with several well known artists. Among these was Pablo Picasso. He began a publishing house called Editions de la Sirene. They published his writings and many musical scores.(2)


In 1918, he formed an intimate relationship with a young novelist by the name of Raymond Radiguet. This relationship had a strong impact on Cocteau's life and work. Then at the age of 21, Radiguet died of typhoid fever, but not before gaining fame for his writing.  After Radiguets death, Cocteau became addicted to opium. He spent 60 days in a sanatorium to overcome his addiction. It is said that at this time, Cocteau created some of his most important work, such as the stage play Orphee, the novel Les Enfants terribles, and other long poems.(2)


The film,  La Belle et la Bete, filled with beautiful imagery and symbolism, is a prime example of Cocteau's artistic flare. In the reading, Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast: The poet Monster, while speaking of the introduction, "adults have to accept things with simple faith that children have," for Cocteau, "poetry had to be felt not analysed." This film is so beautiful, and has such an emotional impact. The archetypes speak to every soul. Very few directors in his time or ours can create such visual poetry. 






(1). http:// criterioncollection.blogspot.com/2007/05/69-testement-of orpheus.html  Oct 5, 2009 

(2). http://people.wcsu.edu/mccarneyh/fva/c/JCocteau_bio.html Oct 5, 2009

(3). http://www.imdb,com/name/nm0168413/bio Oct 5, 2009


Comments (1)

Sean Desilets said

at 11:50 pm on Oct 7, 2009

* Might be interesting to talk about how Cocteau dealt with Marais in his films, including _Beauty and the Beast_
* Needs links, perhaps in a section on Cocteau's aesthetics
* There's some interesting stuff on his relationship to surrealism, and his politics--maybe common themes in his work (he was pretty obsessive and always turned to a few select ideas)

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