In 1959, Clergue captured historic and artistic photographs on the set of Jean Cocteau's last film "Testament of Orpheus" (Le testament d'Orphée) . The images evoke the creative personality of one of France's foremost 20th century intellectuals, Jean Cocteau, writer, artist, and filmmaker. Clergue documented the atmosphere on the set of the landmark, seminal film. Among Cocteau's collaborators represented are Pablo Picasso, Yul Brynner, and Jean Marais. Photographer Lucien Clergue, a close friend of Cocteau, was only 25 at the time; he documented the making of the film. In the words of Cocteau, "You are free to do as you please, I look forward to being surprised by your photos. They will reveal something different from my film."
JEAN COCTEAU'S OF "TESTAMENT OF ORPHEUS," 1959
"Testament of Orpheus" (Le testament d'Orphée), directed and starring Jean Cocteau, represents the third part of his Orphic Trilogy and is Cocteau's last film, following "The Blood of a Poet" (1930) and "Orphée" (1950). The black-and-white film includes a few seconds of color, and portrays the quest for divine wisdom of an 18th century poet, played by Mr. Cocteau himself. In a mysterious wasteland, The Poet meets several symbolic characters that bring about his death and resurrection. Testament of Orpheus brings full circle the exploration of the complex relationship between the artist and his creations. With an eclectic cast, including Jean Marais, Charles Aznavour, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Serge Lifar, Françoise Sagan as well as cameo appearances by Yul Brynner and Pablo Picasso, the film represents a retrospective of Cocteau's life and work as examined by the artist himself, and is, in Cocteau's own words, "simply a machine for creating meanings".
About Jean Cocteau
Jean Maurice Eugène Clément Cocteau (5 July 1889 - 11 October 1963) was a French writer, visual artist and filmmaker. His circle of associates, friends and lovers included Kenneth Anger, Pablo Picasso, Jean Marais, Henri Bernstein, Marlene Dietrich, Coco Chanel, Erik Satie, Maria Félix, Edith Piaf. Born in a small village near Paris in a socially prominent Parisian family, Cocteau left home at age fifteen, and published his first volume of poems at nineteen. In his early twenties, Cocteau became associated with the writers Marcel Proust, André Gide, and Maurice Barrès. In 1912, he started his collaboration with Ballets Russes. During World War I, Cocteau served in the Red Cross as an ambulance driver, and met the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, artists Pablo Picasso and Amedeo Modigliani, as well as numerous other writers and artists with whom he later collaborated. Cocteau worked with Pablo Picasso on several projects and was friends with most of the European art community. His films, most of which he both wrote and directed, were particularly important in introducing the avant-garde into French cinema and influenced the French New Wave genre. In 1955, Cocteau was made a member of the Académie Française and The Royal Academy of Belgium. During his life, Cocteau was commander of the Legion of Honor and Honorary President of the Cannes Film Festival. He died in 1963 at his chateau in Milly-la-Forêt.
Photographs © The Estate of Lucien Clergue