COLETTE (Yannick Bellon, 1951)

Incredibly charming: What else should a documentary about Colette be? In conversation, in her Paris apartment, Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, mime, dancer, novelist, wonders whether she should give the green light to a proposed film about the houses in which she lived. “I’m no longer photogenic,” she insists; nearly 80, marriages, affair with a stepson and intermittent […]

ORPHEUS (Jean Cocteau, 1949)

Orphée is the middle part of writer-director Jean Cocteau’s “Orphic trilogy.” Jean Marais, Cocteau’s lover, plays the titular role in Cocteau’s dark, hauntingly poetic variation on and updating of the ancient Greek myth of Apollo’s son Orpheus’s descent into the Underworld, Death’s brooding province, to bring out of it Eurydice, his wife. There is no […]

LES DAMES DU BOIS DE BOULOGNE (Robert Bresson, 1945)

Denis Diderot, whose belief that knowledge is power was the impetus for his Encyclopédie during the Enlightenment, also wrote novels, including Jacques le fataliste (1773; 1796), an episode of which Robert Bresson, updating the plot to the present, adapted as Les dames du Bois de Boulogne. Under a political cloud, Jean Cocteau, who contributed brilliant […]

8 x 8: A CHESS SONATA IN EIGHT MOVEMENTS (Hans Richter, 1957)

Gorgeous, spirited, enigmatic, avant-garde writer-director Hans Richter’s almost entirely speechless 8 x 8: A Chess Sonata in Eight Movements takes its title from the grid of a chessboard. Richter’s sophisticated air, celebrity stars (Jean Arp, Paul Bowles, Alexander Calder, Jean Cocteau, Peggy Guggenheim, Man Ray, etc.), dazzling down-the-rabbit-hole enchantment, bag of tricks (reverse motion, jump-cuts, […]