The largest retrospective on the multitalented filmmaker, poet, writer, painter, and something I never knew before - boxing promoter - the magnifique Jean Cocteau is currently on display at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, marking the 40th anniversary of his death. The show previewed at the Cannes Film Festival in May - he sponsored the first edition in 1946 , and will close on January 5.
What is special about the Pompidou display is the unique organization complete with gray lounging chairs that exude from the wall. Large double sided screen displays of memorable moments of his films include "La Belle et La Bette" 1946 with a close up of the exquisite beastly face of Jean Marais, and Josette Day wandering through the hallways of the castle where she has been traded for a rose. She cringes at the sight of long human arms extending from the walls, brandishing candelabras.
Also displayed is a scene from JP Melvilles' "Les Enfant Terribles", with screenplay by Cocteau, one of my favorites. In this scene, Paul (Edouard Dermithe) has just taken poison and his sister Elisabeth (Nicole Stéphane) has put a bullet to her head, elegantly collapsing into the Chinese screens and onto the marble floor. Cocteau was superb in choreographing the bodies of his actors in sickness and in death.
In parallel screens are the 'clinging to the walls' iconography of Cocteau. The young Enrique Rivero in "Blood of a Poet" from 1930 crawls though a corridor looking through different keyholes into rooms of his mind. This scene merges with a similar Cocteau set up,' Le Zon', from the 1949 film - a scene I actually said was one of the happy places in the world I can imagine when being hypnotized to stop smoking in 1992. I haven't smoked yet! In this scene the dark angel Heurtebise (François Périer)and "Orpheé" (Jean Marais) pressed to the walls through the forces of gravity, pass by window makers, and suddenly are whisked away by the winds of 'Le Zon'.
The poet also tries to go through a doorway, at the admonishment of statue, Lee Miller, which tranforms to a pool water that sweeps him under. A similar image occurs in "Orpheé" where Jean Marais equipped with rubber gloves presses the doorway which becomes liquid. When Patrick Swatze tries to penetrate the doorway of Demi Moore in "Ghost", adorned with one of those fabulous sweaters that Jean Marais wears in Orpheé, the magic of Cocteau lives on.
Photographs of Jean Cocteau through the ages, his incredible writing, and other artifacts of his magnificent life are all at the Pompidou to behold. It's clear that his life didn't always thrill him, at one point he became an opium addict.
This is the year of Cocteau in France with a slew of tributes to the grand 'cinéaste, ecrivain et poéte'.
For Movie Magazine, this is Moira Sullivan, Paris FRANCE
© 2004 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 12/10/03
Jean Cocteau at the Centre Pompidou, Paris