Testament of Orpheus

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Testament of Orpheus
DVD cover
Directed byJean Cocteau
Written byJean Cocteau
Produced byJean Thuillier
StarringJean Cocteau
Edouard Dermithe
Henri Crémieux
María Casares
Edited byMarie-Josephe Yoyotte
Music byGeorges Auric
George Frideric Handel
Martial Solal
Release date
  • 18 February 1960 (1960-02-18)
Running time
80 minutes

Testament of Orpheus (French: Le testament d'Orphée) is a 1960 black-and-white film with a few seconds of color film spliced in. Directed by and starring Jean Cocteau, who plays himself as an 18th-century poet, the film includes cameo appearances by Pablo Picasso, Jean Marais, Charles Aznavour, Jean-Pierre Leaud, and Yul Brynner.[1] It is considered the final part of The Orphic Trilogy, following The Blood of a Poet (1930) and Orphée (1950).

One critic described it as a "wry, self-conscious re-examination of a lifetime's obsessions" with Cocteau placing himself at the center of the mythological and fictional world he spun throughout his books, films, plays and paintings.[2] The film includes numerous instances of "double takes", including one scene where Cocteau, walking past himself, looks back to see himself in what was described by one scholar as "a retrospective on the Cocteau œuvre".[3]

The New York Times called it "self-serving", noting that the pretension of the film was certainly intended by Cocteau as his last statement made on film: "as much a long-winded self-analysis as an extraordinary succession of visually arresting images".[1]

Picasso had introduced Cocteau to the photographer Lucien Clergue who was brought in to photo-document the film's production.[4] His black-and-white stills were published in 2001 as Jean Cocteau and The Testament of Orpheus.[5]


  1. ^ a b "Testament of Cocteau, a Cinematic Poet". The New York Times. June 18, 2000. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  2. ^ "Jean Cocteau's Testament of Orpheus". Film Forum. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  3. ^ Lane, Veronique (2017). The French Genealogy of The Beat Generation: Burroughs, Ginsberg and Kerouac's Appropriations of Modern Literature from Rimbaud to Michaux. Bloomsbury. p. 112. ISBN 9781501325045. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  4. ^ [4] https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/constituents/lucien-clergue?all/all/all/all/0
  5. ^ [5] Clergue, Lucien. Jean Cocteau and The Testament of Orpheus. New York: Viking Studio, 2001 ISBN 0-670-89258-0

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