- Symbolic surrealism 4/7/2012 12:00:00 AM by Red-Barracuda
I haven't seen any other features from Jean Cocteau, so many of the subtleties and references were lost on me. As such I didn't entirely understand all that occurred. It seems to be the final part in a loose trilogy of films based around the myth of Orpheus. In it, Cocteau himself plays a time-travelling poet, basically himself, who reflects on his life's works. He wanders a fantastical land and encounters various characters from his works of fiction. It's not a plot-driven film at all. It is more of a personal voyage of the director's. It was the last film he made and is clearly intended as a swansong, and a summary of his work.
The film often works best when it is at its most surreal. Many of the effects are extremely simple, yet beautifully executed. For instance the part where Cocteau reconstructs the flower bit by bit is very nice; likewise when Orpheus leaps out of the sea. Towards the end there is even a very striking invasion of the colour red, that can't help but be very memorable imagery. There are moments of the bizarre sprinkled throughout the picture. Like Cocteau himself says it is all cinematic poetry. Most of it was over my head I have to say but it was an interesting watch all the same.
- Jean Cocteau brilliantly evokes memories of his past triumphs! 9/15/2007 12:00:00 AM by Ziggy5446
French national treasure Jean Cocteau's last film is as personal and private as it's title suggest. Le Testament d'Orphee is a fond farewell to cinema with it's free-flowing, spirited collection of images and scenes that includes characters from Cocteau's past films and personal friends. One would hardly imagine a cinematic poet like Jean Cocteau would be so crass as to make something like a mere sequel to his acclaimed Orpheus/Orphee (1950). And instead what Cocteau does is to give us perhaps cinema's first meta-film. The film itself is an autobiographical fantasia of his whole life. Playing various versions of himself, Cocteau glides through the film as a time traveler in search of his place in the universe. He called it an active poem.
The film was shot on location at Les Baux in the South of France, a landscape whose rough limestone canyons appealed to Cocteau even more than Greece. Francine Weinweller and the main crew put up at that gourmet's mecca, the Hostellerie de la Baumaniere. Francine had a costume part in the film as La Dame qui s'est trompe d'epoque. All the icons out of Cocteau's past were woven into the visual testament - mirrors, horses, flowers, tapestries, and many of his friends - Dermit, Marais, Yul Brynner, Picasso and his wife, among others, appeared.
Unfortunately for Cocteau, public and critics, weaned on the literature of commitment popularized by Sartre and Camus, turned their backs on Le Testament d'Orphee, finding it a self-serving celluloid relic, oddly out of step with the times. One voice, however, and an important one, praised the film. Young Francois Truffaut, winner of a large prize for his film Les Quatre Cents Coups, had turned the money over to Cocteau to help finance Le Testament. Truffaut liked the finished product, which he considered a remake, thirty years later, of Le Sang d'un Poete. Truffaut was not alone in seeing Cocteau, judged by his previous films, as one of the main precursors of New Wave filmmakers.
Le Testament d'Orphee is a misunderstood masterpiece. Brilliant!!!!
- A Unique Contribution to Film 12/24/2008 12:00:00 AM by mphilipm
While I had surely seen the second film in Cocteau's Orpheus trilogy if not the first as well, I suspect I was in no position to appreciate any of what Cocteau accomplished. Now I'm about the same age he was when he did the Testament. I remember the time period for the second and third pictures, having grown up in it. But how all three of these films really transcend time as Cocteau is trying to show you works of art should! I had to rely on the subtitles for the sense of the lines but it was no matter. I don't remember anything else like these films. They are political to the extent they lobby for the poet's point of view. And in spite of the black and white and old prints their effect is most striking. Orpheus Descending and Testament sometimes look like the inspiration for Rebel Without a Cause. And Testament has some pithy comments on modern technology and the short comings of air travel that seem funnier and more relevant today. And toward the end of Testament, having the red blood and the red hibiscus in this black and white movie--how many times has that been imitated by computer technology? But it is what the poet saw then, not what technology makes commonplace and commercial today.
On the discs for Blood of the Poet and Testament are two separate bonus features, documentaries of Cocteau in fading Technicolor--but oh how interesting they are as well. At some point Cocteau says it was Picasso who taught them all to see. But what a treasure trove of talent Paris produced in the first half of the twentieth century. I hope this kind of sharing of artistic discovery can take place on the internet. Maybe it is already happening and I just don't know it. But I do know people who care for serious--but not heavy and sometimes witty--artistic expression, let alone movies, should see all three of these movies and the docs which accompany them.
- the summit of surreal 2/11/2004 12:00:00 AM by luminous_luciano
While clearly not the first in its eclectic genre, this classic is definitely a great round-up of all that is surreal - all that the ''mechanics'' of both surrealism as those of dream can be deemed to be all about... Said mechanics fascinated Cocteau, to the point that he had to make this, his final film, a very original ''sequel'' of sorts to his classic ORPHéE. If only all sequels since had been so original!
The cameos are indeed plentiful as also unexpected; many great stars of 1959 show up, from all fields as all continents! In this, the movie has a time capsule quality that only adds to its surrealness...
Most amazing though is the cameo that is not and could have been; Chaplin, who admired Cocteau -and it was mutual- through the language barrier and everything else that separated them... They had met on a cruise and greeted each other as brothers, though unable to exchange a single word almost... Surely he would have accepted to don the clothes of the Tramp one more time for this unique film... What a surreal addition to an already singular film it would have been! Although, on that cruise, through interpreters, Chaplin had confided that he was sad that he had become rich while playing a poor man... Cocteau admired him all the more for that...
Throughout "Le Testament d'Orphée", the film-goer has the impression of walking through someone else's dream - the director's dream. It is the goal of every film director to have his or her audience view things as if through the director's own eyes - well, I don't think anyone has ever succeeded quite like Cocteau did in this one, his cinematographic swan song as it was as well...
Le Testament d'Orphée is thus highly recommended for so many reasons; Bergman fans as well as those left unimpressed somehow by "Un Chien Andalou", because it was too short; those few will undoubtedly appreciate the long treatment given to this by the master, Jean Cocteau...!
- Film Poetry. 8/9/2001 12:00:00 AM by entreacto
Cocteau, as an authentic reinassance man, shown the world how poetry could be inside everything. In this film, a real testament Cocteau delivers us his whole original world, that one that he constructed from life experiences. His unique craft never needed big budgets, Cocteau creates the magic taking a flower and primary cinema f/x. Thats all, what you see on the screen is just poetry.