Thursday, April 23, 2015


The other night Turner Classics presented a short film made (at the age of 79) by the ever-amazing Sofia Loren, La Voce Umana, an adaptation of a monologic play by Jean Cocteau, first presented in the theater in 1930. A number of Cocteau's works have been filmed, some directed by the writer himself. 

This occurrence started me thinking about the effect of Cocteau on the aesthetics of film. When he created the first installment of his Orpheus trilogy, The Blood of a Poet, in 1930, experimental cinema was already in existence. 

World War II drove it off the scene for a good while, so that when Cocteau's major films, such as Beauty and the Beast and Les Enfants Terribles (the latter directed by J.P. Melville), hit the art houses in the years after 1945, they represented the only viable alternative to the reigning models. There were two: the realism of Hollywood, as incarnated by the noirs; and the Italian neorealism of Rossellini, followed by that of Fellini and Pasolini. Cocteau's films were not in this tradition at all, and I believe that they made a decisive contribution to a new, broader contribution to the concept of what movies are - or could be - about.