Self-portrait of an unknown

I stumbled upon this documentary about Jean Cocteau (dir. Edgardo Cozarinsky, 1985) several months ago, and saved it to my bookmarks. Last weekend I re-discovered the link, and spent part of Tuesday’s April Central New York snow flurries watching it.

Nothing special, but I took pleasure in Cocteau’s repeated insistence on two contradictory artistic impulses: his ambition to know himself and become known, and his desire to keep himself hidden and obscure to himself and all others, as an unmappable and untappable source of creativity.

Some of Cocteau’s bon mots from the film:

We are the workers of a darkness that belongs to us, but eludes us. This profound man–we don’t know him well at all–is our true self. He is hidden in the shadows. He commands us. I decided to plunge down into myself, into this formidable hole, into this unknown mine, at the risk of running into explosive gas.


Honors–one must envision them as a sort of transcendent punishment.


We are the very humble servants of a force that lives in us. We are led–we are led by a force that isn’t external to us–it’s internal. We are led by this night that is our true self.


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