Wisdom From Father Cocteau

I’m slowly working my way through The Art of Cinema, a collection of writings on film by Jean Cocteau.  One passage, from the essay ‘Poetry in Cinematography,’ is too good to not share:

And if the man who carries out a work of cinematography offers us the essence of his heart and soul, precisely because he cannot control the impulse to do so; if he submits himself to undertaking a humble task and this essence escapes from his innermost being, an essence and charm that owe their effect to the very fact that they are uncalculated; then how do you expect this essence and this charm to work when the audience, his true collaborator, responds with ill-mannered indifference to this proposal of a marriage of love?

If the public goes out of its way to lose its childhood faculties, if it pretends to be an incredulous grown-up unable to slip into that sphere where the unreal becomes matter-of-fact, if it insists on hardening itself against the euphoria it is being offered, if it makes fun of things that are beyond it instead of attempting to raise itself to their level, in short, if it will play the sceptic when confronted with the mysteries of religion and art, I am no longer surprised when people complain that producers are inclined to make only films of the most lethal vulgarity.

This craving to understand (when the world that people inhabit and acts of God are apparently incoherent, contradictory and incomprehensible), this craving to understand, I say, shuts them off from all the great and exquisite imprecisions that art deploys in the solitudes where men no longer try to understand, but to feel.

This is why I am fascinated by cinematography, which goes beyond the little audience for theatre and is that much more likely to reach those few souls in the world who are searching for food and dying of hunger.



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