Jean Cocteau: Autobiography of an Unknown

Director: Edgardo Cozarinsky
Year Released: 1984
Rating: 2.5

Criterion put this intriguing portrait of the artist as a rarely spoken-of old man on the "The Blood of a Poet" disc as a nifty extra - in it, Cocteau acts as narrator and gives an account of his own life. This is - in itself - both a plus and a minus, since, while optimistic and a cheerful speaker, Cocteau is also maddeningly confusing, and I had the damnedest time figuring out what era of his life he's talking about (he speaks like his poetry might read, so it's a lot of metaphors, similes and oblique references being spun). He starts off at the beginning of his life, and then pole-vaults around several centuries to something he wrote later on. However, just because as an "autobiography" it has gaping holes in it (Jean Marais, Cocteau's good friend, gets little attention; Cocteau was also chummy with Picasso and yet not much is said about the great Cubist) doesn't mean it's a waste: seeing Cocteau's luscious artwork, sculptures, photography and murals is worth precious time in itself.