Jean Cocteau's first feature film Le Sang d'un Poete is a surreal horror entry that displays the talents that were to create Le Belle et la Bete and Orphee.
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Le Sang d'un Poete (1930)

53mins. BW. France.
Credits: Dir: Jean Cocteau; Prod: Vicomte de Noailles; Sc: Jean Cocteau; Ph: Georges Perinal; Ed: Jean Cocteau; Art: Y.G. d'Eaubonne; Mus: Georges Auric.
Cast: Lee Miller, Pauline Carton, Odette Thalazac, Enrique Rivero, Jean Desbordes, Fernand Dichamps. Narrated: Jean Cocteau.

Those familiar with Jean Cocteau's La Belle et la Bete (1945) and Orphee (1950), might be intrigued to see how this, Cocteau's first feature film rates in comparison. However, there is very little here to compare with anything! As Cocteau states in the film's prologue "It is the first attempt of a poet to write, on the hearts of his audience with motion picture tools, instead of with the conventional pen".

What is clear is that the film is a personal study of the joys and agonies of being an artist, and apparantly is a portrait of Jean Cocteau himself while commenting on the plight of a defeated France while asking for the nation's redemption by love, not by vengeance.
Seperated into four vignettes, the first episode introduces a poet, (Enrique Rivero), who creates a drawing of a living mouth, but despite his attempts to eradicate it from the picture, it jumps off the canvas and onto his hand. After a distracted sleep, the poet awakes and places the mouth on a female statue that then comes to life. Considered to be a crime, the poet is condemned to walk the halls of the Hotel of Dramatic Follie, entering this bizarre realm through a mirror. This particular scene was used again for Jean Marais to enter Hell in Orphee.
Le Sang d'un PoeteOnce inside, the poet's movements become restricted and awkward. This curious effect was achieved by nailing the walls of the scenery to the floor while the actor dragged himself along instead of walking as the camera filmed the scene from above.
The poet spies through the keyholes to various rooms where he observes a Mexican facing a firing squad, a child covered with bells who hangs as a decoration on the wall and a multitude of shadows. As the film progresses, the images become even stranger; a schoolboy is strangled to death by his scarf, another child lays dead spurting blood from his mouth as he is pelted with snowballs. All the images pass without explanation leaving them open to interpretation. Cocteau later felt that only in this privately commissioned film was he allowed true artistic freedom.

Le Sang d'un PoeteLE SANG D'UN POETE's release was delayed until 1932 due to a scandal concerning L'AGE D'OR (1930), a surrealistic work by Dali & Bunuel also produced by Vicomte de Noailles. After initial release, it would be another decade before LE SANG D'UN POETE would be screened again.

This realistic documentary of unreal events could be deemed extremely tedious to those not familiar with Cocteau's other work, but enthusiasts will be falling over themselves to obtain a copy.

As a word of warning, ignore the 91 minutes running time as stated on Tartan Video's video cover, this release only runs at a scant 49 minutes.

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