di Massimiliano Mocchia di Coggiola

"The privileges of beauty exist. It acts also on the people who don't notice it" (J. Cocteau)

All Jean Cocteau's work is characterized by a kind of mathematical symmetry (that often comes from different autobiographical experiences) that we can find for example in "I Ragazzi terribili ", where the author centres the story on the fatal correspondence between the "Boule de neige" (Ball of snow), that first wounds the protagonist Paul and the "Boule d' opium" (Ball of opium) that at the end kills the young boy. He was a big friend of Picasso, Modigliani, Jacob, Proust e Man Ray and protagonist of Paris society life, Jean Cocteau differs from the other artists for his anti-conformism and his sense of innovation: he embraces the Surrealist and Dadaist inclinations without submitting to the rules and theories of these schools.
After a short negative change like a poet of high society (shortly he becomes jester of court) the poet (now devoid of mask) makes clear his role: only expressing himself through the arts without no more false illusions and reacting to the death theme with a further mask of gaiety that conceals instead, a deep melancholy. Thanks to his figure of dandy he forms a friendship with André Gide and with the impresario Sergeij Diaghilev who introduce him in the world of dance and theatre; among the first musical collaborations we remember the one with his friend Stravinsky in "Oedipus-Rex" and in 1917, the one with Eric Satie in the "Parade" which is not based on a real plot but on a series of pantomimes, with Picasso like costume-designer and art director and Apollinaire like author of tests.

The début of the work reveals disgusting for the audience. The "Parade" can be considered the first contact between Cocteau and Satie who will become the master of the Group of Six; these composers - Darius Milhaud, Georges Auric, Francis Poulenc, Arthur Honneger, Germaine Tailleferre, Louis Durey - begin professing a return to Impressionist music. The success of this group influences also other frameworks, for example in the cinema other six artists make the group of French impressionists who have the purpose to reproduce elegance and refinement in this field. We have to remember in this contest the collaboration between Milhaud and the young producer Marcel L'Herbier that takes to the realization of the "Inhumaine", a masterpiece of music and film that complete one another.
In effect Milhaud is the more original and affirmed composer of the Six and in all his works (from Le Boeuf sur le Toit) we can discern some exotic musical inclinations that derive from a fascinating journey in Brazil. This mime drama directed by Golschmann and art directed by Raoul Dufy is also remembered for the wise supervision of Cocteau, who collaborates since 1918 with the group of Six for many pieces and several poems like La voce umana (Poulenc), La dama di Montecarlo (again Poulenc), Phédre (Auric), Les Mariés de la Tour-Eiffel (each member of the group, except Durey).

In 1918 Cocteau writes the Manifest of this original group of musicians entitled "Il Gallo e l 'Arlecchino", where he maintains the possibility of a music "for men" far from Schoenberg and Deutsch academic music. These are a few of the basic assumptions expressed by Cocteau in the Manifest: " An artist cannot copy. So he must only copy to be original"; " The opposition acted by Eric Satie consists in a return to simplicity. It's this the only opposition to a period made of an extreme refinement". " A poet has always too many words in his vocabulary, a painter has too many colours on his palette, a musician has too many notes on his piano". These assumptions make us understand different aspects of this group: an absolute lack of prejudices towards non-academic music, a predilection for simplicity in literature and the opposition towards the decadent and exhausting refinement. From 1918 to 1925 the Six, conducted by Cocteau, demonstrate a deep vital desecrated spirit that expresses itself in the ballet " Gli sposi della Tour Eiffel", ordered by De Maré, the company leader of Swedish ballets. Once more the audience doesn't appreciate this pantomime made of a "potpourri" of funny airs: when the spectators listen to Honneger piece say: "hurray, here is the music!" without realizing that the waltz of Faust is played at the Bass in a grotesque way.