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Distributed for Reaktion Books

Jean Cocteau

Despite Jean Cocteau’s renown as a leading figure in European cinema, his work and life have rarely been examined together. Evaluating Cocteau’s career and his fascinating personal life on equal terms, James Williams offers here a groundbreaking analysis that sets them both within highly revealing historical and artistic contexts.

Williams’s biographical investigation of this poet, dramatist, novelist, designer, and filmmaker centers around Cocteau’s constant self-questioning and how it permeated his work. From Cocteau’s work in fashion and photography to his formal experimentation to his extensive collaborations with male friends and lovers, the book charts the complex and unpredictable evolution of his work and aesthetic. Williams argues that Cocteau’s body of work is best viewed as an ethical, erotic project of aesthetics that carries important ramifications for our contemporary understanding of being and subjectivity.

An engaging and wholly accessible account, Jean Cocteau is essential reading for all those fascinated by the man and his unforgettable films.

192 pages | 30 halftones | 5 x 7 7/8

Critical Lives

Biography and Letters

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"Well-written and well-paced . . . A good summation of Cocteau’s significance as a gay artist."

Richard M. Berrong | The Gay and Lesbian Review

“Comprehensive and easily accessible . . . Williams painstakingly crafts a seminal study on the life and art of Jean Cocteau with a flair for language and a scholarly knowledge of his subject.”

Film Matters

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Living Artist and the Posthumous Work
1. Paradise Lived and Lost
2. Natural-born Legend
3. Prince in Exile
4. Russian Lessons
5. Cocteau’s First War
6. The Greatest Battle
7. Happy Families
8. Genius of France
9. A Child Carrying a Cane
10. Annus Mirabilis / Annus Miserabilis
11. Lost in the Wilderness
12. An Ass Bearing the Lord
13. Miracle or Simulacrum?
14. Body and Blood of a Poet
15. Tripping Across the World
16. Enter Apollo
17. World War Redux
18. No Man’s Land
19. Club Santo-Sospir
20. The Long Haul
21. Jean Cocteau is Dead, Long Live Cocteau!
Select Bibliography
Photo Acknowledgements

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