Le Sang d’un Poète (The Blood of a Poet) Director: Jean Cocteau (1930)
The film is an avant-garde, surrealist, and slightly unsettling movie. Cocteau developed the idea shortly after his notable novel, Les Enfants Terribles. It was the first part in his ‘Orphic trilogy’, followed by Orpheus nearly 20 years later in 1949.
Chilean actor, Enrique Riveros, stars as an artist whose works suddenly come to life. His statue transports him to another world through water-based mirror. He witnesses an odd assortment of things through a hotel keyhole. He is persuaded to shoot himself in the head and screams to return to his world. He destroys the statue. The scene shows a snowball at another boy, but it suddenly turns to marble and kills the boy. The final scenes include a disturbing card game played over the body of a dead boy, and the losing player kills himself while the previously dead boy comes back to life.
The film was funded by the Vicomte de Noallies who gave Cocteau 1,000,000 francs. He was originally filmed for a scene in which he and his wife applaud the card game, but upon realizing they were cheering fora game that ended in suicide, immediately demanded to be removed, which Cocteau obliged. The film was highly controversial, along with another film, L’Age D’or. The Blood of a Poet caused riots and rumors of an anti-Christian message. The Viscomte was banned from the Jockey-Club of Paris and he was threatened with excommunication from the Catholic Church. The whole furor caused the film not to be released until 1932, rather than 1930 when it was completed.
Visually, Le Sang d’un Poète, is a great film with excellent dream-like sequences and remarkable cinematography. However, the avant garde absence of a meaningful plot, interspersed with scenes of the grotesque heads or masks, makes this film difficult to stomach for this less-than-sophisticated viewer.