Lee Miller: Surreal Statue

Lee Miller played the Statue in Jean Cocteau’s 1930 Surrealist film “The Blood of a Poet.”
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.

See Lee Miller: Flapper Fashionista, Lee Miller: Surrealist Muse and Lee Miller: War Photographer.

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4 Responses to Lee Miller: Surreal Statue

  1. tomrobertstennessee says:

    After reading your comments about Lee Miller, I received my January 21 issue of THE NEW YORKER, which features a biographical article about her. A London exhibit, “The Art of Lee Miller,” travels to the Philadelphia Museum of Art this month.
    You have an uncanny intuition for blogging on what is considered about-to-be-currently relevant, fresh and worth rediscovering in culture.
    Thanks for the introduction! I’ve been mesmerized…

  2. Mark Willis says:

    Thanks, Tom. I’d like to claim some savvy second sight, but the trend I spotted was a flurry of page visits last weekend to my early Lee Miller posts. I’d almost forgotten them. That’s what the blog and its readers do for me, remind me of past work and motivate me to return to it. I went back and added content to those early posts. Lee Miller is a fascinating character whose life intersects so many others — Conde Nast, Man Ray, Picasso, Paul Eluard. I think she’ll be a permanent player in the Dramatis Personae here. I look forward to reading that New Yorker profile.

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  4. Pingback: Mouffe at the Movies: The Blood of a Poet | a blind flaneur

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