Mar 21, 2008

Les enfants terribles

French poet Jean Cocteau was one of the greatest and most innovative filmmakers of all time. I would even argue that he is the best filmmaker that France has ever produced. Opium helped to fuel Cocteau’s unlimited creativity. A born artist, he directed films that captured beauteous dreams of the highly transcendent sort in a hopelessly terminal world. Jean Cocteau would have fellow French director Jean-Pierre Melville direct the film adaptation of his novel Les Enfants terribles.

Les Enfants terribles follows the sadistic relationship of an ambiguously incestuous brother and sister. Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci seems to have taken some inspiration the film with his recent incest orgy fest The Dreamers. Jean Cocteau is not doubt a superior director to Jean-Pierre Melville (who for the most part directed gangster films). I was disappointed to find out that Cocteau allowed Melville to direct Les Enfants terribles (especially after Cocteau’s success with Orpheus).

Jean Cocteau's writing carries the power of Les Enfants terribles. Melville merely constructed Jean Cocteau’s novel into a minor masterpiece. I look at Melville as merely the artisan where Cocteau is the artist. Les Enfants terribles lacked the celluloid magic found in the masterwork films directed by auteur Jean Cocteau.

Paul and Elizabeth are siblings that share a room together (among other things). They spend most of their time in this room playing games and planning trouble. Eventually an attractive blond resembling Elizabeth (Agathe) catches the fancy of Paul. Elizabeth becomes jealous and plots a plan to destroy any type of romantic relationship between Paul and Agathe that may occur. All of this results in utter tragedy. Melville’s direction of the final scene in Les Enfants terribles is his greatest contribution to the film.

Les Enfant terribles is one of the very rare films that finds it’s major strengths in it’s powerful and undeniably unique writing. Jean Cocteau was incapable of telling a boring story as his character wouldn’t allow banality. During his early twenties, supposedly Cocteau could reach full orgasm just by using his imagination (without touching himself). I believe that to be true and reflexive of Cocteau’s fantastic imagination.

-Ty E

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