In the Eye of the Camera:
Jean Cocteau in the South of France
September 20 - October 22, 2003
Lowenfeld Exhibition Hall
10th floor, Axinn Library
Guest Curator: David Pushkin, Assistant Professor of Fine Art
New College, Hofstra University
The French poet Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) was famous for his plays, novels, films, poems, librettos, drawings, murals and public performances. From 1950 until his death in 1963, Cocteau spent much of his time in the south of France. The landscape and the companionship of a close circle of friends provided Cocteau with creative resources necessary to carry on his work.
In 1958 he began planning his final film, The Testament of Orpheus. The film is remarkable for its combination of studio and outdoor location shots. Cocteau, cast and crew filmed in Provence, Nice, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and Villefranche-sur-mer. The project was sponsored by Mme Francine Weisweiller who appears in the film as the modern woman in Belle Époque attire. The Weisweiller home Santo Sospir is also featured as a location in the film, along with friends Pablo Picasso, Yul Brenner, Charles Aznavour, Maria Casarés, Henry Crémieux, Edouard Dermit, Jean Marais and Serge Lifar.
Cocteau asked the young Lucien Clergue to join the production team as a still photographer. Though there was already an official still photographer on the set, Clergue was given free license to photograph the production as he pleased. From this, Cocteau expected to gain some unique insights into the project that only Clergue's work could add. The collaboration was successful in creating a visual resonance between Clergue's photographs and the poetic content of Cocteau's film. The rocks, the cliffs, the sea - all inhabited by the mythological characters Minerva, Oedipus, Orpheus and Tiresias - make Cocteau's vision alive in the lens of Lucien Clergue.
This exhibition combines some of the photographs taken by Lucien Clergue and those provided by Carole Weisweiller. The exhibition complements the conference, A Pen of Light: The Films of Jean Cocteau, presented by the Hofstra Cultural Center, the Rhode Island School of Design, and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy of New York, October 1-3, 2003.