Monday, March 11, 2013

Cocteau and the Resurrection

Chapelle St Blaise des Simples and the Tomb of Jean Cocteau with the Fresco of The Resurrection, Milly-la-Forêt 

La Chapelle Saint Blaise des Simples outside the ancient village of Milly la Forêt is all that remains of an old leper colony

The chapel dates back to the 12th century

After the Revolution it remained empty unused and unoccupied

In the 1950s it was taken over by the artist and poet Jean Cocteau

The main theme was The Death and Resurrection of Christ. Cocteau  is buried under the floor of the Chapel

Cocteau`s epitaph under the figure of the Risen Christ is inscribed « Je reste avec vous » "I am with you"

His last film was Le Testament de Orphée (1959) which tells the story of an 18th-century poet who travels through time on a quest for divine wisdom. In a mysterious wasteland, he meets several symbolic phantoms that bring about his death and resurrection. 

Cocteau had a lifelong obsession with the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice as well as the continual presence of Death

It is  needless to say a rather self indulgent film but has a vast cast of characters including Picasso, Yul Brenner, Charles Aznavour, Salvador Dali and Jean Marais

The main character is played by Cocteau himself. The work has been described asa narcissistic showpiece for Cocteau and his artistic endeavours

It is however eighty minutes of absurd, yet brilliant fantasy

But like his murals in the chapels, the film repeats the eternal truth which beats like a tocsin in all Cocteau`s works: every death is transformed into an eternal beginning

It has been said that great art is silent, incomprehensible and makes us dream. By that test, Cocteau`s work is great art. Here is an extract from the film 

In April 2009 at the Easter Vigil, Pope Benedict XVI said of "the Resurrection":
"Saint Mark tells us in his Gospel that as the disciples came down from the Mount of the Transfiguration, they were discussing among themselves what “rising from the dead” could mean (cf. Mk 9:10).  
A little earlier, the Lord had foretold his passion and his resurrection after three days. 
Peter had protested against this prediction of death. But now, they were wondering what could be meant by the word “resurrection”.  
Could it be that we find ourselves in a similar situation?  
Christmas, the birth of the divine Infant, we can somehow immediately comprehend. We can love the child, we can imagine that night in Bethlehem, Mary’s joy, the joy of Saint Joseph and the shepherds, the exultation of the angels.  
But what is resurrection? It does not form part of our experience, and so the message often remains to some degree beyond our understanding, a thing of the past.  
The Church tries to help us understand it, by expressing this mysterious event in the language of symbols in which we can somehow contemplate this astonishing event"