La litterature et le cinema le cas de Jean Cocteau
Doctor of Philosophy thesis
A poet and a movie director, Jean Cocteau brilliantly manifested surrealist inspiration in his poetry, in the performative art of his theatrical representation, and in his cinematography. His work is the best example to follow when asking the question how much the new art of cinematography inherited from other artistic expressions, especially from literature. This dissertation seeks to provide new and interdisciplinary inside into precisely those ways in which film, as an artistic expression, is intimately related to literature. The thesis begins with an examination of the development of Cocteau's art from his first lyrics to his production of abstract films, showing how cinema can be directly related to his personal poetical mythology already manifested in literary works. I introduce the syncretism of Cocteau artistic expressions, examine the importance of literature in the later production of cinematography, and consider the main constructions in Cocteau's re-creation of the mythological and legendary figures of the poet. In this later endeavor I discuss myth, symbol and allegory, poetics that will be further defined in the second chapter. The second part suggests that within the heterogeneous art of Cocteau, there is a profound relationship between his poetry and his films. His unique perspective goes beyond traditional genre frontiers in the lyric, in theatre, and in narrative, making for a singular representation of the very notion of artistic intuition and the role of the artist. Whether perceived as a form of art or an aesthetic debate, the creation of art movies become for this French poet and cineaste a perfect way to interrogate his destiny and to define his artistic personality. His visual work is populated by his literary characters and haunted by his obsession with death and sacrifice. The artistic expression he would invent by means of the cinematic image was a way, moreover, in which to attract a timeless public attention. As Cocteau explored what it might mean to be a poet and the kind of destiny that a poet might secure, he raised the question of the artist's liberty, exemplifying this most fully in self-portrait we find in his re-construction of the Orpheus character in movies like The blood of the poet, Orpheus, and The Testament of Orpheus. Creating in this way a mask for the artist's identity he also establishes an intimate link between his artistic expression in the domain of poetry and his creation in the field of dramatic representation. Although focused on the artist's ongoing concern with artistic identity, this second part of the thesis recognizes cinema as a longstanding art and analyzes its instruments and technique. Many of these are inspired by the other arts. As with literary texts cinema must attend to narrative creation, to the construction of plot and to the unfolding of character. As in theatre it involves declamation and the art of decorations. As in dance performance it relies on music, sound and animation. There are of course ways in which cinematography through special effects, for example, finds its own path as it provides a means for the poet to express his intuitive inspiration. In this Cocteau has been recognized as one of the most creative directors of all time.