The Blood of A Poet
Review by Jeremy Kleinman | posted August 16, 2000
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The Movie
The Blood of A Poet, the first film in Jean Cocteau's "Orphic Trilogy", consists of 5 "episodes" which touch on the art and mind of a poet. The film itself, feels much like poetry, appreciated more for its beauty and expression than its narrative. There is no cohesive plot which drives the film; rather the five episodes are only tangentially connected onscreen. Even Cocteau, in a speech given in connection with the film (the text of which is included on the DVD) acknowledges that he is unable to really explain what the film is about.

The Blood of A Poet is, more than a movie, a form of artistic expression. Somewhat similar to a surreal contemporary, Un Chien Andalou, the film allows music and few lines of dialogue or narration to simply aid in the progression of the film which depends greatly on the artistic exploration of the poet's expression. For many viewers, the film often seems to make little sense. While themes in the film are easily perceptible, the bonds that tie these themes together through the five episodes of the film are not. In his essay, Cocteau does offer a considerable examination of the story line and the meaning of the film, explaining a number of the film's themes. Cocteau concedes, however, that his remarks received the benefit of time to look at the images in hindsight and discern their meaning, suggesting that they weren't necessarily intentional. Cocteau's comments and the film itself seem to evidence a sort of stream-of-consciousness filmmaking in the examination of the mind, heart, and art of a Poet.

The Blood of A Poet is not for everyone. The film may be described as somewhat surreal, obscure, unconventional, highly artistic, complex, bold and difficult. It is, however, quite a film for those who see film as a higher form of artistic expression and who need not encounter a cohesive narrative to appreciate a visionary film. There is a feeling when one watches the film, that one is indeed seeing something special. Although I cannot say that the film was particularly entertaining, it was quite enjoyable as a form of artistic expression and the film equivalent of poetry.
The Picture
The film is presented in full screen, in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The film is a black and white film from1930 and, as such, has a fair amount of scratches, grain and imperfections. Nevertheless, because this film is from 1930, such markings are to be expected. They do not greatly detract from the enjoyment of the film, however, as it is a treat to be able to watch this film on a DVD Player.
The Sound
Much like the picture quality, the sound quality suffers from the age of the film. The film has been digitally remastered to erase many of the "crackles" and "pops" which usually accompany film of such an age. The sound is presented in Dolby Digital Monaural. While the sound understandably suffers a bit from being presented in Mono, the music and rare dialogue may still be enjoyed by all those who see it.
Bonus Materials
"The Blood of A Poet," the first film of the Orphic trilogy is also the most rich DVD in the series in terms of bonus materials. The DVD contains the text of a speech given by Cocteau in connection with this film, an hour-long autobiographical documentary on Cocteau, the color bar, and an extremely extensive Cocteau bibliofilmography featuring the articles and books written by Cocteau in addition to his films and those in which Cocteau contribued to the writing.

Cocteau's speech, transcribed onto the DVD provides some tremendous insight into Cocteau's thoughts on the film. It is interesting and informative and a must-view after watching this movie. In fact, because of the length of the film, a reading of this essay might prompt viewers to sit down and watch the film again with the newly gained insight.

The 66 minute Cocteau documentary, "Autoportrait d'un Inconnu" (Autobiography of an Unknown) offers a rather in depth look at the life and work of Cocteau during his career throughout the span of the Orphic Trilogy and also looks at those in his artistic circle, including Pablo Picasso and the influence and similarities with Cocteau. The documentary is enjoyable and takes the viewer further into the brilliant mind of Cocteau. It is best, however, to wait and watch the documentary after watching the entire trilogy, both for the personal presence that Cocteau has in the Trilogy's final installment and the presence of scenes from the later films included and discussed in the documentary.
Final Thoughts
The Blood of A Poet is definitely a challenging film. Any and all overarching storyline must be explicated by the viewer himself or herself, particularly before viewing Cocteau's comments. As stated above, this film is not for everyone, but, for those who feel that it is their kind of film, it is an enjoyable enigma of a film and provides an interesting and promising seed of an idea which blossoms in the later films.

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