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Jean Cocteau

Born in Maisons-Lafitte, France, on July 5, 1889: French writer, visual artist, and filmmaker Jean Cocteau.  His works are marked by extravagant experimentation and mind-bending effects in nearly every artistic medium. 

The poet, playwright, author, and film director enjoyed early success with his poems, which he fully exploited while sponsoring Picasso, Stravinsky, Giorgio de Chirico, and the musical group known as Les Six.  During the course of his life, Cocteau worked as an actor, director, scenario writer, novelist, critic, and artist, all of his work being marked by verve and cutting-edge brilliance.

He experimented in almost every artistic medium and was regarded as a leader of the French avant-garde in the 1920s.  His first great success as a writer came with the publication of the novel, Les Enfants Terribles (The Terrible Children, 1929), which he made into a film in 1950.  Surrealistic fantasy suffuses his films as well as his literary works. 

Among Cocteau's best dramatic works are Orphée (Orpheus, 1926) and La Machine Infernale (The Infernal Machine, 1934), in which the Orpheus and Oedipus myths are surrealistically adapted to modern circumstances.

Cocteau's films include Le Sang du Poète (The Blood of a Poet, 1932), La Belle et la bête (Beauty and the Beast, 1946), and Orpheus (1949).  Other works include ballets, sketches, monologues, whimsical drawings, and the text (written with Stravinsky) for the opera-oratorio, Oedipus Rex (1927).

Jean Cocteau--a true Renaissance man born before his time--died in 1963.

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