“Cocktail is not the plural of Cocteau!” Who better than the poet himself could provide a denial in the form of a joke, to a reputation which, he himself recognized, was not stolen. At a time when Paris was a permanent party, he spent countless evenings going from a reception at a publisher’s house in Saint-Germain-des-Prés to a theater performance, before going to dinner at Maxim’s. This never stopped him from taking the time to write books, chronicles, plays and direct films that have become classics, including Beauty and the Beast, Les Parents Terribles and Le Testament d’Orphée. It was therefore almost naturally that he was asked, at the beginning of 1953, to chair the jury of the 6th Cannes Film Festival. He accepts enthusiastically, in principle, but nevertheless sets one condition: “this festival must be one of kindness,” he declares. These days and evenings in Cannes should be a party, in every sense of the word. Sumptuous lunches in dream villas and dinners in tuxedos will punctuate long working days that “Mr. President” has managed perfectly.

Also read Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais. Serious things, by Maurane Mazars and Isabelle Bauthian: an idyll in the heart of war

“A friendly climate” specifies François Chalais in the extract that Madelen invites you to discover, at the time of the 60th anniversary of the death of Jean Cocteau: an interview carried out in 1954 for Reflets de Cannes, a program which has become legendary, that the journalist has only just created. He denounces, with great diplomacy, previous editions where “conspirators” would have intrigued, within the jury, with the hope that a trophy would be awarded to someone who perhaps does not deserve it. Aware of his responsibility, Cocteau established a very precise rule: each member of the jury has the obligation to see each of the films in the selection twice. In his eyes, this is the minimum to get an objective idea of ​​the qualities and defects of a feature film.

He will be listened to, which will not prevent, behind the scenes, long passionate debates and particularly drastic choices, in a spirit of freedom then considered particularly innovative. “I can like a film that my comrades don’t like and I can not like a film that they like” explains Cocteau, aware that the President does not have complete power over the final vote, but has, on the other hand, the need for it to be the cinematographic angle that counts. He is perfectly aware that the seventh art is often a reflection of the events of the time, but that it is essential that his colleagues place themselves outside of these contingencies and judge the filmmakers as men who defend a story rather than ideas. political or religious. “We must be a sort of no-man’s land of the language wall,” he concludes.

The bet is won. In 1953, the Grand Prix was awarded to Henri-Georges Clouzot’s film, The Wages of Fear, with a special mention to Charles Vanel. Cocteau also salutes the talent of a young French director, Albert Lamorisse, by awarding him the Grand Prix for short film for Crin Blanc. An “out of competition” trophy is given to Walt Disney to “thank him for the prestige he brings to the Film Festival”. In the process, the Minister of Information, delegated by the government, decorated him with the Legion of Honor. Cocteau will once again don his costume as President in 1954, then that of Honorary President in 1957. Behind-the-scenes images marked these three editions which earned him the nickname “Cocteau the Magnificent”: the appearance of Pablo Picasso in 1953, dressed in a sheepskin and wearing a bowler hat; the appearance, in 1954, of a quasi-figure who was assured of a great future, Sophie Loren and the arrival of the Soviet delegation with 120 kilos of caviar in its luggage. In 1957, on the steps of the old Palace, Mike Todd introduced Cocteau to Elizabeth Taylor, calling him Jean Coquelicot. Which made the latter smile, even if he was no longer quite in his prime.