More than simply one of avant-garde’s most successful and influential filmmakers, Jean Cocteau ranked among the century’s most diversely talented artists, also enjoying success as an accomplished poet, novelist, and illustrator. Cocteau was born July 5, 1889, in France and was raised primarily in Paris. Educated at the Lycee Condorcet, he became infatuated with another boy, Pierre Dargelos; their relationship was never consummated, and Pierre’s ghost often haunted Cocteau’s later adult work, his image embodying recurring themes of longing and solitude. He made his first splash while still a teen, reading his poetry at the Theatre Femina as a protégé of the actor Edouard de Max and becoming a darling of the intellectual set. By the middle of World War I, he was composing for the Ballets Russes, for Parade, which featured decor by no less a figure than Pablo Picasso, and music from Erik Satie, premiering in 1917. His subsequent wartime experiences later became the subject of a 1923 novel… read more
A magazine once asked Cocteau, if his house were burning he could take only one thing, what would it be? "I'd take the fire", he answered.
I just finished a collection of his plays. I find it kind of hard to believe that he distanced himself from the Surrealist movement, considering he seems to reflect their collective sense of humor. Brilliant artist, nonetheless. I love his canvas work just as much as his film and stage work. A true renaissance man.