THE BLOOD OF A POET

Le Sang d'un Poete

 (Jean Cocteau, France, 1930) 51 minutes

THE BLOOD OF A POET

Director: Jean Cocteau
Producer: Jean Cocteau
Screenplay: Jean Cocteau
Photography: Georges Perinal
Music: Georges Auric
Enrique Rivero (The Poet)
Lee Miller (The Statue)
Pauline Carton (Child's Tutor)
Feral Benga (Black Angel)
Jean Desbordes (Louix XV, masked)

Reviews and notes

The first film by the wonderfully idiosyncratic Cocteau is historic in so many respects. Aside from marking his brilliant shift to cinema from the visual arts and poetry, THE BLOOD OF A POET is also one of the key films of the surrealist movement, alongside Bunuel's L'Age d'Or the most extended exploration of the aesthetic on the screen - and one of the first French sound films. It also enjoys the rare and dubious distinction of having been personally psychoanalysed by Sigmund Freud (Ziggy's comments were regrettably not available for inclusion at length).

Although our print is unsubtitled, the dialogue is minimal and the gist of the film is carried almost exclusively by the visuals. Many of the images and themes of the film would become an intrinsic part of Cocteau's unique form of cinema, finding their fullest expression in his final film, The Testament of Orpheus (1960).

Pedant's note: Over the years there has been much twittering (not least by Cocteau himself) about whether or not THE BLOOD OF A POET is strictly speaking a Surrealist work, but given the content and visual style of the film, the time and place it was made, and even the funding source, what's the alternative?
- Alan Langridge, New Zealand Federation of Film Societies..


In the same year [as L'Age d'Or] the Vicomte de Noailles financed Jean Cocteau's LE SANG D'UN POETE, but with the increased costs of sound-film production this kind of private patronage of independent filmmaking came to an end. LE SANG D'UN POETE was Cocteau's first venture into film and though attacked and derided by the Surrealists on its first appearance, the film now stands as a major achievement and a statement of the personal vision which would be fully orchestrated in Orphee some twenty years later.
- Roy Armes, The Movie, No. 16, 1980.


Cocteau's first film, LE SANG D'UN POETE, is also the most recognizably an 'art movie'. Although made five years after his open breach with the Surrealists, it clearly belongs to the period of experimental filmmaking in France during the 1920s which produced Bunuel's L'Age d'or. It is a compendium of Cocteau's themes, containing references to the Orpheus myth and to the snowball fight from Les Enfants terribles. Most important of all, it allowed Cocteau to explore the potential of the medium and the effects that he was to use in a more disciplined way in later works.
- Robin Buss, from Cocteau, The Art of Cinema, London, 1988.


There is no such thing as a synopsis of such a film. I could merely give my own interpretation of it. I could tell you that the Poet's solitude is so great, he lives what he creates so intensely, that the mouth of one of his creations remains in his hand like a wound, and that he loves his mouth, loves himself really; that he wakes up one morning with this mouth pressed like a stranger's against his body, that he tries to get rid of it, and that he does so by transferring it to a statue, and that this statue comes alive, takes its revenge, and leads him into terrible adventures. I could tell you that the snowball fight is the Poet's childhood, and that when he plays a game of cards with his Fame, or his Fate, he cheats by taking from his childhood what he should be taking from himself. Then I could tell you that having tried to create his earthly fame, he falls into that "mortal weariness of immortality" inspired by every illustrious tomb. And I would be right to tell you these things, but I would be wrong too, for it would be a text written after the fact, after the images... if each of us finds in this film a meaning of his own, I consider that I have achieved my purpose.
- Jean Cocteau, at the Theatre du Vieux-Columbier, January 1932.

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