THE OBERWALD MYSTERY (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1980)

Experimenting with video, Michelangelo Antonioni based his Il mistero di Oberwald on L’aigle a deux têtes, which its playwright, Jean Cocteau, himself filmed (boringly) in 1948. Gorgeously videographed by Luciano Tovoli, this color work—a symphony of filters—reunited Antonioni with Monica Vitti, who is brilliant as a nineteenth-century queen whose King Frederic, age 25, was assassinated […]

LES ENFANTS TERRIBLES (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1949)

Why didn’t Jean Cocteau direct this adaptation of his novel? We hear Cocteau’s voiceover throughout. The shading and framing of the early overhead shot of schoolboys engaged in a snowball fight suggests we are glimpsing this outdoor scene through a gigantic keyhole, and this of course reminds us of Cocteau’s Blood of a Poet (1930)—as […]

THE BLOOD OF A POET (Jean Cocteau, 1930)

Near the beginning, a tall, slender chimney starts to collapse; the action completes at the end. In between, then, in a split-second, lies a dimension where time doesn’t move forward but possesses depth.      According to Cocteau “a realistic document of unreal events,” Jean Cocteau’s Le sang d’un poète considers the sacrificial act of artistic creation. […]

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (Jean Cocteau, 1946)

The two most magical films in existence may be Fritz Lang’s Destiny (1921) and Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Vampyr (1931), the first one light-magical, and the second, darkly magical. Both came out of Germany, although Dreyer, one of cinema’s three or four greatest artists, was a Dane; both films fully exploit the almost primitive capacity of […]