|Coup de foudre is a French expression meaning, a lightening strike or the shock of falling in love, and it is the title of the forceful and intensive intervention, conceived by Paul Miller as a remix of Cocteau’s film, The Blood of a Poet. Coup de Foudre balances three elements simultaneously: a beautiful musical composition by Paul Miller, involving the recomposed soundtrack with live performances of overlaid electronics, violin, and cello; updated slang in spoken word by writer-filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles, from the French poetry of Cocteau; harmonized with the penetratingly intelligent choreographic forms invented by Corey Baker. Thus Coup de Foudre achieves a new kind of perfection.|
L. Brandon Krall
Coup de foudre is a French expression meaning, a lightening strike or the shock of falling in love, and it is the title of the forceful and intensive intervention, conceived by Paul Miller as a remix of Cocteau’s film, The Blood of a Poet. Coup de Foudre balances three elements simultaneously: a beautiful musical composition by Paul Miller, involving the recomposed soundtrack with live performances of overlaid electronics, violin, and cello; updated slang in spoken word by writer-filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles, from the French poetry of Cocteau; harmonized with the penetratingly intelligent choreographic forms invented by Corey Baker. Thus Coup de Foudre achieves a new kind of perfection. The initiating invitation and creative contributions of Charles Fabius in developing and producing Coup de Foudre, add inestimably to its exceptional level of accomplishment.
First of all, it was rash and daring in the best sense to have undertaken an intervention with such a great classic, the first film made by Jean Cocteau. In Blood of a Poet, Cocteau began to develop an original cinematic language which he believed distinctive, and apart from the work of the Surrealists with which it is widely classified, in part because in 1927 Buñuel and Dali released Un Chien Andalou, and also because it was made possible by the patronage of the Count and Countess De Noailles, who also paid for notable films by Man Ray. Of the film, Cocteau wrote, “…I know many films that put me to shame. I do not know of one that is less slave to the methods of an art ‘that is the same age as I’ and that therefore never forced me to burden myself with examples…” He underscores the fact that, this was one of the first French films of the sound era, and that he was discovering how to use the cinematic medium as he worked.
The dancer Corey Baker, was dressed in the same costume as the principal actor, shirtless with rolled cuffs on his belted khakis. Baker’s interactions with the black and white film, perfectly projected onto a screen that is flanked by a mirror, a door with illuminated keyhole and a simple wooden chair were phenomenal in the use of scale, motifs of hands, and “beautiful movements” (gestures made in silhouette onto the projection). Baker was mostly in the central area of the stage, but he used the areas below and above the stage as well breaking the box of the middle ground. To the right, Van Peebles appeared and disappeared in a soft circle of light speaking phrases of poetry which he had re-imagined for contemporary audiences, and opposite were the Telos Ensemble and Miller performing live with the musical score.
Asked to comment on his work in this collaboration, performer Corey Baker, who is co-founder of the Ballet Noir and principal in, Fela! currently on Broadway wrote:
In my work on Coupe de Foudre, I wanted to expand Cocteau’s use of movement into condensed vignettes of dramatic expression. Poking fun at post-modern images allowed me to go to a physical place that I never explored. Before the Stanislavski method was created, actors communicated in highly animated physical gestures. The decision to take an actor’s approach was inevitable. As a choreographer my goal was to find the perfect marriage of things that exist in the film. I also wanted to rethink my own approach to kinesis for the piece. I usually poke fun at classical and contemporary work bending the form with hip hop and African movement, etc. But this time I wanted to use post-modern movement as a voice incorporating elements of Butoh, locking, vogueing, and contemporary movement. These silhouettes allowed me to go inside of the film and very deliberately bend the images that Cocteau created. The experience of collaborating with DJ Spooky and Melvin Van Peebles was priceless. Historically, Cocteau collaborated with artists like Coco Chanel, Picasso, Diaghilev: people who were considered to be luminaries and trailblazers. It sort of felt that way – I’m truly in the court of kings here. Every aspect of the work was a pathway to ancestral wisdom, out of the box intellectual sparring and creative revelations that only happens with incredible chemistry and synergy.
It took approximately five months for the principal collaborators, with Telos Ensemble violinist Heidi Schaul-Yodir, cellist Sofia Nowik, and set designer Michael Lavin (whose well-arranged elements seemed a perfect fit) to create and rehearse the piece for its Premiere performances on the October 9 and 10 in the theater at the museum, a most elegant and wonderfully intimate space. For a member of the audience, seeing Baker, Van Peebles, and Miller’s Coup de foudre, was like being struck by lightning or falling in love at first sight, and in the illumination of their shocking and marvelous achievement it is certain that Monsieur Cocteau would be enormously pleased and gratified to find that his film has been embraced and reborn into the 21st century as a multidimensional reality of such rare and high quality.