Thursday, August 19, 2010

Le Testament d'Orphée

Orfeuksen testamentti / Orfeus testamente / The Testament of Orpheus / Le Testament d’Orphée, ou Ne me demandez pas pourquoi! FR 1960. Year of production 1959. PC: Éditions Cinématographiques. P: Jean Thullier. [Financed by François Truffaut on the proceeds of Les quatre cents coups]. D+SC: Jean Cocteau. DP: Roland Pontoiseau. PD: Pierre Guffroy. Costumes and sculptures: Janine Janet. M: Georges Auric; Martial Solal, Glück, Bach (Suite No. 2 in B minor, BWV 1067), Wagner. ED: Marie-Joséphe Yoyotte. LOC: Baux-de-Provence (notamment au Val d’Enfer et dans les carrières), Mme Francine Weisweiller's garden at Cap d'Ail, a street in Villefranche where the poet meets his double. CAST: Jean Cocteau (Himself - The Poet), Edouard Dermit (Cégeste), Jean-Pierre Léaud (Dargelos / The schoolboy), Henri Crémieux (Le professeur / The Professor), María Casares (La princesse / The Princess), François Périer (Heurtebise), Claudine Auger (Minerva), Charles Aznavour (Le curieux / The Curious Man), Yul Brynner (L'huissier / Court usher), Daniel Gélin (L'interne / The intern), Jean Marais (Oedipus), Alice Heyliger (Eurydice), Georges Chretelain and Michèle Lemougne (the intellectual lovers), Nicole Courcel (la mère maladroite), Francine Weisweiller (une élégante), Brigitte Morisan (Antigone), Lucia Bosè (une amie d'Orphée / Orpheus' Friend), Luis Miguel Dominguín (un ami d'Orphée / Orpheus' Friend), Pablo Picasso (un ami d'Orphée), Françoise Sagan (une amie d'Orphée), Annette Strøyberg Vadim (une amie d'Orphée). 83 min. A vintage print with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Lea Joutseno / Maya Vanni viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (50 Years Ago), 19 Aug 2010

"It is the film-maker's privilege to be able to allow a large number of people to dream the same dream together."
- Jean Cocteau

Revisited the final film of Jean Cocteau's Orphic trilogy. Beautiful definition of light in the vintage print. Watching Cocteau's Orphic trilogy for the first time as a whole in December 1978 was for me personally a turning-point in the discovery of art. The three films have a cumulative effect, and the sense of play is at its most relaxed in this final film.

This time Cocteau, himself, is Orpheus, the poet who can transcend time and space. "The poet is the one who changes the rules of the game", a creator, someone who can transform reality. It is a farewell film about death - and rebirth, because a real poet never dies, although "the work of art destroys its creator".

One can watch Le Testament d'Orphée as a comedy based on gags. The gags are direct variations of the Méliès tradition: reverse motion, slow motion, appearances and disappearances. "A wave of joy has carried my farewell film". Some favourite gags on this viewing: the machine which can make one a celebrity in a moment (torn autographs become poems, songs, novels), "don't ask me why!" - amoureux intellectuels - even painting an orchid the poet creates a self-portrait - the court where the hardest punishment is to be condemned to live - meeting oneself, who pretends he doesn't even notice - if one waits too long, one turns into a lobby

Cocteau is a master of dream imagery, with recurrent features such as: - sleepwalking: slowed-down walking with eyes closed - against a heavy wind (from beyond... ?) - along high, huge walls and through heavy doors...

In Finland, there is a topical debate on Romani beggars, begging having been almost extinct here until recently. Pointedly, Cocteau portrays the Romani as protectors of the Poet.

One of my favourite scenes in all cinema (don't ask me why) is where Cocteau recreates the orchid via reverse motion to the tune of Bach's minuet played by a flute.

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