Volume 41 Number 1

Cornelia A. Tsakiridou (Ed.)

Reviewing Orpheus: Essays on the Cinema and Art of Jean Cocteau

1997
147 pages
$65.00
ISBN 0838753795
Bucknell Review

Dealing primarily with the Orphic cinema of Jean Cocteau and the theme of Orpheus in his life and in his art, this volume reveals Cocteau's relevance to current aesthetic and critical discussion. It also reveals the complexity and elusiveness of an artist who idealized classicism, embraced modernist forma, and anticipated postmodernist dilemmas without losing sight of his own creative identity and of art's unique ability to inform and enhance human life. Partly because of his reputation as a dilettante and partly because many of his modernist contemporaries saw his work as too anachronistic and self-indulgent to merit attention and study, Cocteau has remained the interest of a small minority in this country and abroad. Postmodernism's dedication to the rehabilitation of "lesser" artists and its revision of modernist history have not affected Cocteau studies even in areas of self-evident relevance like sexuality, myth, and gender. In the very few instances where these subjects have been addressed, the focus has been mainly on Cocteau's cinema, and no attempt has been made to link his cinematography to his theater, poetry, and the many autobiographical and critical texts that reflect on his aesthetics and sensibility. The essays in this volume take the first steps in this direction with topics that include illusion, magic, and reality in the theater and film of Cocteau; the narcissistic character of his Orphism; the phenomenology of Cocteau video in hyper-real contexts; the psychoanalysis if his textual and visual language; his deconstruction of the Orphic myth; the baroque and neobaroque nature of his cinematograph; and the influence on his aesthetics and rhetoric of Italian quattrocentro painting and theory. Among the works considered are, in film, The Blood of a Poet, Orpheus, The Testament of Orpheus, Beauty and the Beast, and the Eternal Return; in theater, The Wedding on the Eiffel Tower and Knights of the Round Table; in diaries and other texts, Diary of an Unknown, Letters to His Mother, the 1946 poem Crucifixion, and the 1943 essay "The Myth of El Greco."

Contributors: Neal Oxenhandler, Walter A. Strauss, Annette Shandler Levitt, Wilfried Ver Eecke, Cornelia A. Tsakiridou, John Carvalho, and Naomi Greene.

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