Lot n° 56
1200 - 1500
COCTEAU JEAN (1889-1963).
3 autograph MANUSCRIPTS signed "Jean Cocteau" (the 2nd unsigned), [1946-1948]; 3 pages in-4, 2 and a half pages in-4, and 6 pages in-4 (on the back of sheets of paper with the letterhead of the Maison du Bailli in Milly, except for the first).
Three texts about the play and the film L'Aigle à deux têtes.
Article on the play, given to the weekly
Juin (September 21, 1946), to present
L'Aigle à deux têtes before its Parisian premiere at the Théâtre Hébertot on December 20, 1946, after having been performed in Brussels and Lyon in October. "It is very difficult to talk about a work of art [...] The Eagle with Two Heads is a play that does not seek to expose anything other than the prestiges of the theater and the talent of the artists who interpret it. [...] My characters speak and act according to the inner rhythm that animates them and if they speak interminably, like my queen in the first act, it is because the intensity of the silence of her partner forms with her a dialogue to which the attentive spectators are not mistaken"... And finally he evokes his actors, including Edwige Feuillère and Jean Marais, and his collaborators...
Before The Two-Headed Eagle. Presentation of the film. [L'Aigle à deux têtes, shot in 1947 and released in September 1948, is the film adaptation of the play created in Brussels in October 1946 and in Paris on December 22, 1946 by Edwige Feuillère and Jean Marais]. At the head of the manuscript, Cocteau noted: "(if it is necessary for me to speak)". In his film, Cocteau declared that he wanted to "suffocate the intellect under the action and make my characters act their thoughts more than they speak them. I pushed this method to the point of inventing for them an almost heraldic psychology, that is to say, as far from the usual psychology as, on the coats of arms, the animals that are represented there resemble little the animals as they exist. For example, a smiling lion, a unicorn kneeling in front of a virgin, an eagle carrying a banner in its beak. This does not mean that this psychology is false, but that it expresses itself more truly, more violently than usual"... After the "mechanism of the souls", he comes to his work with
Christian BÉRARD to recreate "a whole atmosphere proper to these royal houses where what one names decadence at the poets and which is not other than their particular step expresses itself by a certain madness, by a naive fight against the conformism and the received uses. [...] Only one thing has been borrowed from history - the final stab and the fact that a famous empress was able to walk for a long time with this knife stuck under her shoulder blade. The rest (be it the places, the characters and the acts) is purely my imagination.
Answers to spectators of The Two-Headed Eagle. Cocteau carefully divided his answers into fourteen numbered points and they allow him to respond to the criticisms of all kinds that were addressed to him. Sometimes tinged with impatience, sometimes very pedagogical, they shed light on the ambitions that presided over this work and hide nothing of the difficulties encountered in its production. On the sets: "It has been said of The Two-Headed Eagle that it was the triumph of bad taste. [...] Christian
Bérard and Wakhevitch wanted to paint the bad taste of sovereigns. We are after the Goncourts. Mallarmé, Manet, the impressionists discover the Japanese style. The queens and the great actresses are inspired by it"... On the negative reactions of some critics: "What we call the elite and our judges play, unconsciously, a game that our new game disturbs. The public does not play any game and adopts ours if it pleases them or, on the contrary, if it takes them out of their habits that tire them". On his interpreters: "I shot five hundred meters of film in the Eagle on Edwige FEUILLÈRE who speaks alone.
Without her, this tour de force was impossible.
It becomes possible because she is dying with the genius of a Chinese actor and because the intensity of MARAIS' silence is worth her approach and the authority of her speech. On the constraints that the economy puts on the cinema: "I know the faults of the two-headed eagle, but alas, the money that a film costs and the minimum of time that it imposes on us, do not allow us to correct our faults. The cinematograph costs too much. Art has almost always been the privilege of the poor. Great poets die in hospitals. Besides, art that is not available to the young is criminal. Producers fear the risk. It is difficult to imagine an art that is not based on risk".
On the psychology of the characters: "The psychology of the characters of the Eagle has no more relationship with the psychology itself than the animals of the unicorn tapestries have with the real animals". On his staging choices: "There is no camera movement. The camera is fixed.
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