During the German Occupation of Paris, Jean Cocteau, assisted by his friend, Jean Marais, shook off a decade-long oblivion due to opium addiction, and wrote the script for Robert Bresson’s film, Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (1944/1945).
This tale of vigorous revenge toying with feeble affection still packs a wallop of revelation about cosmic, historical incitements at the heart of personal crises. As such, it’s as fresh as today, in its discernments.
Cocteau was a not fully appreciated giant of the early twentieth century avant-garde. The most striking thing about his art (in painting, graphic design, poetry, prose, theatre and filmmaking) is its conveying a daunting situation as a delicious (albeit very dangerous) adventure, not a gloomy warning.
The keys to creative power glowing in Cocteau’s elegant and mysterious endeavors have a kind of carbon half-life. One very conspicuous area of seemingly endless homage and retooling of those concerns is that of feature films all over the world. For instance, the rocky relationship of the Jewish survivor, Shoshanna, and the Nazi hero, Zoller, in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, is a most strange but also most illuminating Beauty and Beast flare-up (Beauty and the Beast being a specialty of Cocteau’s variegated reflection).
Here is a vintage poster that strives to evoke the mysterious heart of Cocteau’s 1946 film, La Belle et la Bete.
A witty play upon the agonies of finding (dining) satisfaction amidst a world of disappointments. This 1928 promotion of a deluxe Paris restaurant that survives to this day includes wool-gathering, operating behind a mask and a brick wall.
We’ll revisit the work of this astoundingly fertile and incisive artist, in a week or so.