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Film / The Blood of a Poet

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The Blood of a Poet is a 1932 featurette (55 minutes) directed by Jean Cocteau.

It's an extremely odd film with no linear narrative. It can be best described by being divided into sections.

  • In the first part, an artist in a studio is drawing on a canvas. Unsatisfied with the mouth he has just drawn on a face, he wipes it off with his hand—only to discover that the mouth has appeared on his own hand. Eventually he slaps the mouth onto the face of a statue, which comes to life.
  • In the second part, the now-living statue directs the artist to pass through a mirror. The artist does so, only to find himself in a bizarre hotel where peeping through keyholes reveals things like hermaphrodites and firing squads.
  • The third part shows boys having a snowball fight outside. Events turn tragic when one boy wraps up a metal ball in snow and flings it.
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  • The fourth and last part has the artist, now dressed in a tuxedo, playing cards with a woman, in the street, on a table set over the corpse of the boy killed in the snowball fight.

This film was the only film appearance of Elizabeth "Lee" Miller (she's both the statue that comes to life and the card-playing woman), who later went on to great fame as a photographer.


Tropes:

  • Blood from the Mouth: From the dying boy lying in the snow, after he's hit by a metal snowball.
  • Book-Ends: Near the beginning of the film there's a clip of a smokestack collapsing, presumably from a factory being demolished. Right at the end the clip is shown again, as the smokestack crashes to earth.
  • Ceiling Cling: Where the little girl taking "flying lessons" winds up after her Wall Crawl, avoiding her mean teacher with the whip.
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  • A Date with Rosie Palms: It's implied that the artist uses the mouth that appeared on his hand to give himself the world's only masturbatory blow job. Implied, as all we see is the man's face with an orgasmic grin (and just to make it weirder, eyes painted over his closed eyelids).
  • Driven to Suicide: Because this is a Mind Screw the artist does this twice.
    • The first time a disembodied hand reaches out and hands him a gun. He shoots himself in the head and there's blood, but then a laurel crown appears and the artist is just fine.
    • The second time comes when the artist is caught cheating at the card game. This time it sticks.
  • Due to the Dead: The man and the woman play cards over the dead body of the boy, until a guardian angel (definitely an angel, he's got wings made out of wire) appears over the boy's body and covers it. The boy's body then disappears.
  • Fixing the Game: When the artist reappears as a tuxedo-clad card player, he pulls an ace out of the jacket of the dead boy in the street. The guardian angel then pulls the ace out of the artist's hand, and the artist, exposed as a cheater, shoots himself.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: Heard during the card game, after the artist cheats and up until he kills himself.
  • Hermaphrodite: The artist spies one in Room 23 of the hotel. This is done in typically bizarre fashion, with some parts of the hermaphrodite's body being drawn in chalk, and some parts appearing through holes in the wall (like one male and one female arm).
  • Homoerotic Subtext: Cocteau was gay. The artist is a handsome man who spends the first half of the movie shirtless, and then there's the guardian angel, a handsome, muscular man who appears with his skin oiled and wearing nothing but briefs.
  • Living Statue: When the man slaps the mouth on the statue, it comes to life and directs him to pass through the mirror. Later the same actress appears as a flesh-and-blood woman playing cards, who seems to turn into a Living Statue at the end.
  • Magic Mirror: The statue that comes to life directs the artist to go through a mirror. He does, and teleports to a bizarre hotel where he sees all sorts of surreal things. (This effect was done by having the actor dive into a pool which was mocked up to look like the mirror. Cocteau used the same effect in Orpheus.)
  • Mind Screw: A bizarre film with no linear narrative, just a series of loosely connected scenes.
  • Narrator: Cocteau is occasionally heard narrating, like when he explains that the artist passed through the mirror portal and entered into a hotel.
  • Proscenium Reveal: Sort of. The artist and the woman are playing cards in the street. Then a theater appears around them, with people in boxes. The people in the boxes applaud when the artist kills himself. However, then the woman walks away into other scenery as if she is not on a stage at all.
  • Rewind Gag: The artist peeps through a keyhole in the weird hotel, and sees what looks like a Mexican revolutionary stood up against a wall and shot by firing squad. Then the film reverses, bringing the revolutionary back to life.
  • Snowball Fight: What seems like a harmless snowball fight between teenage boys turns tragic when one wraps up a metal ball with snow, flings it at another boy, and kills him.
  • Stop Trick: This effect that is old as the movies is used for much of the weird surrealism, like when the various parts of the hermaphrodite appear one at a time.
  • Surrealism: A mouth appears on an artist's hand. A little girl crawls around on a ceiling. Weird hermaphrodites appear in hotel rooms. Statues come to life...
  • A Taste of the Lash: The cruel old lady giving "flying lessons" uses a whip to motivate the little girl.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: The artist spends better than half the film, namely the first two parts, shirtless.
  • Wall Crawl: The little girl taking "flying lessons" in the weird hotel does this.
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