Jean Cocteau, 1949, 95 min.
This is, without a doubt, Cocteau's best film. Orphée is clearly based on the ancient myth in which Orpheus (Jean Marais) descends into the underworld to rescue his wife, Eurydice (Marie Déa), from death. Cocteau's vision of the afterlife is rooted in modern realities: a bombed-out urban landscape, for example, and messages from the other side communicated through a car radio.
Le Testament d'Orphée (The Testament of Orpheus)
Jean Cocteau, 1959, 80 min.
In the film that completes the cycle, Cocteau plays an 18th-century poet who travels in time. This is a wry, self-deprecating work, with the 70-year-old poet portraying his dreams, his friends and lovers, and fictional characters. The cast includes Pablo Picasso, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Jean Marais, and Yul Brynner. Cocteau's final film is an open coda to a unique career.