Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Sunday, December 11, 2016


As I ironed, tonight, I watched Jean Cocteau's elegant version of the legend of Orpheus, Orphee. It was made in 1949 after his Beauty and the Beast, and it is filled with magical images.

Orphee (Jean Marais) is a famous poet who's become wealthy and is coasting on his laurels while a hot young poet threatens to surpass him. He's dissatisfied and surly, and thinks he's past his prime but doesn't want to do anything that will upset his life.
The young poet is killed in an accident and Orphee become connected to Death (Maria Casares), who travels in a gorgeous Rolls Royce accompanied by two men in black on motorcycles.

He winds up with the Rolls parked in his garage and hearing poetic messages on the radio, which give him inspiration but also cause him to ignore his pregnant wife, Eurydice (Marie Dea)...until she dies and he goes into the underworld to bring her back, with the help of Death's chauffeur, Heuterbise (Francois Perier).

It's been years since I've seen the film...hell, though I remembered the basic storyline, I'd forgotten a lot of the details. There are a lot of old camera tricks in this film, mostly shooting an action then reversing it or making clever use of rear projection, but they work in it. Not quite as nicely as what Cocteau pulled off in Beauty... but close.

What makes the film wonderful is its lyricism. Its meditation on love. Orphee falls in love with Death and she with him, but it cannot be. Heuterbise falls in love with Eurydice but it also cannot be. There are rules which must be followed, to the point of extermination. It could almost be a meditation on love between two men, which wasn't a crime in France at the time (homosexuality was decriminalized in 1791) but was still frowned upon and condemned by the Catholic Church. Even today there are those running around in France who say gays ought to be burned at the stake.

It's one of those movies that inspires me. Makes me wonder if I could do what Orphee is told he must do to become relevant, again -- surprise people. It's been a long time since I surprised anyone with my writing, and even then it was more shock at my audacity than anything else. Certainly not being impressed with my writing.

I wonder if I can do something that surprises and also impresses people?

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