Saturday, October 06, 2012

Edgardo Cozarinsky’s Jean Cocteau: Autoportrait d'un inconnu / Autobiography of an Unknown

Edgardo Cozarinsky’s Jean Cocteau: Autoportrait d'un inconnu / Autobiography of an Unknown (1983, 1984, 1985) is packed with sharp observations about arcs and artists, movers and shakers, social networks and human foibles. Loved it, in bits and pieces. The main focus is Jean Cocteau (1889-1963), or rather the world from Cocteau's perspective. There are stories and recollections about his running buddies of various times and places. There's Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), for instance. Cocteau refers not to Picasso's "Blue" or "Classical-Surrealist" period but rather to when Picasso had hair on his head vs. his bald period. A more personal angle, that is.

Cocteau waxes enthusiastically about the life and times of the Ballets Russes (Russian Ballets) and all the crazily attendant energies connecting various artists and musicians to it, including folks like Sergei Diaghilev (1873-1929) and Vaslav Nijinsky (ca. 1889-1950). Let's not forget Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971). The funny thing is, all of these people were considered at least somewhat controversial in the first part of the twentieth century.

Throughout much of the documenary Cocteau warmly personalizes things. When recalling Erik Satie (1866-1925) and Claude Debussy (1862-1918), he remembers how these two dudes expressly hated fellow musician Joseph-Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), and how Satie, to rile up Debussy, sang Ravel's praises. It worked -- Dubussy went into a rage about how horrible Ravel was to music and life.

Argentinian director Edgardo Cozarinsky (born 1939) is (as of 2012) -- as Cocteau was for most of his life -- a multi-genre artist in his own right. In this documentary he lets Cocteau do his thing, ranging from walking to talking and writing or drawing while listening to Charlie Parker (1920-1955), one of his jazz muses. I liked it.  

Today's Rune: Signals.  


Charles Gramlich said...

I can never see Cocteau's name without thinking of the bird.

WAS said...

Cocteau was the de facto reporter in fact for one of the most amazing outpourings of creativity in one place and time, so this account must be juicy indeed. Those are some great, heroic figures listed, and I like the way you managed to include Charlie Parker, sympatico in so many ways. I'm curious how Cocteau talks of the dominant figure of this epoch, Guillaume Apollinaire, who among so many other things famously attended Stravinsky and Nijinsky’s scandalously anti-patriotic ballet The Rite of Spring in uniform and full head wound regalia.

Erik Donald France said...

Merci, monsieurs ~

In the film -- unless I missed it -- he doesn't delve into Apollinaire, but believe it or not, Alcools and Calligrammes came up in a conversation just a couple days before.