Lee Miller played the Statue in Jean Cocteau’s 1930 Surrealist film The Blood of a Poet. [Source: Senses of Cinema]
Lee Miller’s first and only movie role was playing the Statue in Jean Cocteau’s 1930 film The Blood of a Poet (Le Sang d’un Poéte). Miller met Cocteau at Le Boeuf sur le Toit, a nightclub in the Rue Boissy d’Anglas. Le Tout-Paris went there to see and be seen. When Miller overheard Cocteau asking his friends who should play the Statue in his film, she volunteered breathlessly. Cocteau found his stunning starlet. Man Ray, her photography mentor and lover, felt jealously eclipsed.
The Blood of a Poet is a trippy, enigmatic film that today feels like it’s trying too hard to be surreal. If decoding dense imagery is your thing, it will keep you going for a long time. As film critic Julia Levin explains it,
The Blood of a Poet, Cocteau’s first film, looks more like an animated cartoon then a true live-action film. It is surreal and uninhibited in its handling of visual imagery. What can be loosely defined as a story-line begins with a young man, a poet, attempting to draw a series of faces. Suddenly, the mouth of one of these ‘faces’ rubs off in his hand and starts smiling. Terrified, the poet accidentally smears off the mouth of the statue he was working on previously. The statue comes to life and, in return, forcefully sends the young man through the mirror to another, imaginary locale at a mysterious hotel.
The Blood of a Poet is often compared to Luis Buñuel’s L’Âge d’or and Un chien andalou (yes, the one with Salvador Dali and the gruesome slit-eyeball scene). Cocteau’s film can make you laugh out loud, though, and the moment when Lee Miller’s Statue comes to life is its clearest grace note.
If this piques your curiosity, stay tuned tomorrow when Café Mouffe goes to the movies.