When early American sound cinema was struggling to find more interesting things to film than staid plays from the front row of the stalls, visionaries like Luis Bunuel and Jean Cocteau were pushing the envelope circa 1930. L’Age d’Or still has a certain notoriety due to a discomforting eye-slitting scene; Jean Cocteau’s The Blood of a Poet was being made almost the same time, and is arguably a more successful, less sensational and more coherent film. A series of short vignettes reflect on art and life; an artist finds a mouth growing on his own hand, and attempts to place it within his art, a statue. The same artist makes his way down the corridors of a hotel, climbing the walls and finding living statues within. A snowball fight between children turns tragic when someone throws hard marble instead of soft snow, and an artist’s death arouses applause from a paying audience. Cocteau would revisit the snow-ball fight for Melville’s Les Enfants Terrible, but it’s the most straightforward element here of an experimental film that defies simple explanation. This kind of art is best approached not with a notebook and pen, but allowing the images, rich and personal as they are, to wash over you; the ceramic eyes featured here, and in many of Cocteau’s other films, feel modernist and not dated at all. The best art is timeless, and Cocteau’s inimitable style conferred immediate immortality on himself and his unique world-view. American photographer Lee Miller appears as a statue here; a strange detail, but only one of many in a 55 minute film that still retains a dazzling, mystical allure to this day.
LE SANG D’UN POÊTE (The Blood of a Poet) will be released on DVD, Digital Download and for the first time on Blu-ray in the UK on 5th August 2019 as part of Studiocanal’s Vintage World Cinema Collection.