Enrique Riveros, “The Blood of a Poet”, 1932, Director Jean Cocteau, Cinematographer Georges Périnal
Jean Cocteau’s “The Blood of a Poet” is an avant-garde film which starred Enrique Riveros, a Chilean actor who had a successful career in European films. It is the first part of the Orphic Trilogy, which is continued in the 1949 “Orphee”, and followed by the 1960 “Testament of Orpheus”.
The film was financed by French nobleman Charles de Noailles who gave Cocteau one million francs to make the film. Shortly after the completion of the film, rumors began circulating that it was an anti-Christian message. Due to the riotous public reaction to Noailles’s previous film “L’Age d’Or”, Cocteau’s release date for his film was delayed for more than a year. “The Blood of a Poet” was finally released on January 20, 1932.
In this scene from the second section of the film, the artist played by Riveros is transported through the mirror to a hotel, where he peers through several keyholes, witnessing such people as an opium smoker and a hermaphrodite. The artist finally cries out that he has seen enough and returns back through the mirror.
“Many years ago, as I was glancing through a catalogue of jokes for parties and weddings, I saw an item, ‘An object difficult to pick up’. I haven’t the slightest idea what that ‘object’ is or what it looks like, but I like knowing that it exists and I like thinking about it.
A work of art should also be ‘an object difficult to pick up’. It must protect itself from vulgar pawing, which tarnishes and disfigures it. It should be made of such a shape that people don’t know which way to hold it, which embarrasses and irritates the critics, incites them to be rude, but keeps it fresh. The less it’s understood, the slower it opens its petals, the later it will fade. A work of art must make contact, be it even through a misunderstanding, but at the same time it must hide its riches, to reveal them little by little over a long period of time. A work that doesn’t keep its secrets and surrenders itself too soon exposes itself to the risk of withering away, leaving only a dead stalk.”
Jean Cocteau, Cocteau on the Film, 1972, Dover Publications
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