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aka - Testament d'Orphee, Le
France 1959
Directed by
Jean Cocteau
79 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

The Testament Of Orpheus

The Testament Of Orpheus, the third in Jean Cocteau's "Orphic Trilogy" (the others being The Blood of a Poet, 1930 and Orpheus,1949) and his last film, is very much of its time (the 1950s) both in the sense that it trades on the myth of the artist in general and Cocteau himself in particular.

An alumnus of the great artistic phenomenon that peaked in Paris in the 1920s, Cocteau was essentially an aesthete who managed to carve out a considerable reputation for himself as an artistic polymath and this filmic “baring of his soul” attests to just how successful he was in this respect. Not only self-referential but unrepentantly narcissistic the film is largely opaque without an intimate knowledge of Cocteau’s work, something which the artist assumes as a given (he claimed to have organized his film on automatist or dream-like principles). Added to which, for a non-French speaker, the script is so florid that one spends more time reading the sub-titles than watching the often very attractive visuals.

Lacking the ironic humour and thematic broadness of Orson Welles' filmic autobiography, F for Fake (1974), without a specific reason for watching this, The Testament of Orpheus is largely of archival value.

FYI: Having run out of money Cocteau was able to finish the film thanks to Truffaut who donated his prize money from The 400 Blows (1959).




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