Jean Cocteau Quotes

94 Quotes Sorted by Search Results (Descending)

About Jean Cocteau

Jean Maurice Eugène Clément Cocteau (5 July 1889 – 11 October 1963) was a French poet, novelist, painter, and filmmaker.

Born: July 5th, 1889

Died: October 11th, 1963

Categories: Artists, French novelists, French poets, Screenwriters, Film directors, 1960s deaths

Quotes: 94 sourced quotes total (includes 2 misattributed, 1 about)

Meta dataAverageRange
Words (count)223 - 93
Search Results3810 - 230
We must believe in luck. For how else can we explain the success of those we don’t like?
A film is a petrified fountain of thought.
Poets don’t draw. They unravel their handwriting and then tie it up again, but differently.
Jean Cocteau
Dessins (1924), as quoted by Pierre Chanel in "A Thousand Flashes of Genius", Jean Cocteau and the French Scene (1984)
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes)
All good music resembles something. Good music stirs by its mysterious resemblance to the objects and feelings which motivated it.
Jean Cocteau
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes, Le Coq et l’Arlequin (1918): Later published in Le Rappel à L’Ordre (1926) and Collected Works Vol. 9 (1950))
Life is a horizontal fall.
True realism consists in revealing the surprising things which habit keeps covered and prevents us from seeing.
Art produces ugly things which frequently become more beautiful with time. Fashion, on the other hand, produces beautiful things which always become ugly with time.
Jean Cocteau
• As quoted in New York World Telegram & Sun (21 August 1960); also in Threads: My Life Behind the Seams in the High-Stakes World of Fashion (2004) by Joseph Abboud, p. 79
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes)
A true poet does not bother to be poetical. Nor does a nursery gardener scent his roses.
An artist cannot speak about his art any more than a plant can discuss horticulture.
In Paris, everybody wants to be an actor; nobody is content to be a spectator.
Jean Cocteau
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes, Le Coq et l’Arlequin (1918): Later published in Le Rappel à L’Ordre (1926) and Collected Works Vol. 9 (1950))
There is always a period when a man with a beard shaves it off. This period does not last. He returns headlong to his beard.
I have lost my seven best friends, which is to say God has had mercy on me seven times without realizing it. He lent a friendship, took it from me, sent me another.
Man seeks to escape himself in myth, and does so by any means at his disposal. Drugs, alcohol, or lies. Unable to withdraw into himself, he disguises himself. Lies and inaccuracy give him a few moments of comfort.
The instinct of nearly all societies is to lock up anybody who is truly free. First, society begins by trying to beat you up. If this fails, they try to poison you. If this fails too, they finish by loading honors on your head.
Victor Hugo was a madman who thought he was Victor Hugo.
It is not I who become addicted, it is my body.
The extreme limit of wisdom — that’s what the public calls madness.
Jean Cocteau
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes, Le Coq et l’Arlequin (1918): Later published in Le Rappel à L’Ordre (1926) and Collected Works Vol. 9 (1950))
After the writer’s death, reading his journal is like receiving a long letter.
Jean Cocteau
• On the journal of Franz Kafka; diary entry (7 June 1953); Past Tense: Diaries Vol. 2 (1988)
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes)
The worst tragedy for a poet is to be admired through being misunderstood.
Jean Cocteau
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes, Le Coq et l’Arlequin (1918): Later published in Le Rappel à L’Ordre (1926) and Collected Works Vol. 9 (1950))
Film will only become an art when its materials are as inexpensive as pencil and paper.
Jean Cocteau
• As quoted in The Super 8 Book (1975) by Lenny Lipton (ed. Chet Roaman); also in Aesthetic Aspects of Recent Experimental Film (1980) by Barry Walter Moore, Garth S. Jowett, p. 6
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes)
There are too many souls of wood not to love those wooden characters who do indeed have a soul.
If a hermit lives in a state of ecstasy, his lack of comfort becomes the height of comfort. He must relinquish it.
One of the characteristics of the dream is that nothing surprises us in it. With no regret, we agree to live in it with strangers, completely cut off from our habits and friends.
Such is the role of poetry. It unveils, in the strict sense of the word. It lays bare, under a light which shakes off torpor, the surprising things which surround us and which our senses record mechanically.
Jean Cocteau
• "Le Secret Professionnel" (originally published 1922); later published in Collected Works Vol. 9 (1950)
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes, A Call to Order (1926): Le Rappel à l’Ordre (1926))
Everything one does in life, even love, occurs in an express train racing toward death. To smoke opium is to get out of the train while it is still moving. It is to concern oneself with something other than life or death.
The poet never asks for admiration; he wants to be believed.
Originality consists in trying to be like everybody else — and failing.
Misattributed to Jean Cocteau
• Raymond Radiguet, who was quoted by Cocteau in his acceptance speech to the Académie Française (October 1955)
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Misattributed)
Tact in audacity is knowing how far you can go without going too far.
Jean Cocteau
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes, Le Coq et l’Arlequin (1918): Later published in Le Rappel à L’Ordre (1926) and Collected Works Vol. 9 (1950))
If it has to choose who is to be crucified, the crowd will always save Barabbas .
Jean Cocteau
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes, Le Coq et l’Arlequin (1918): Later published in Le Rappel à L’Ordre (1926) and Collected Works Vol. 9 (1950))
An original artist is unable to copy. So he has only to copy in order to be original.
Jean Cocteau
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes, Le Coq et l’Arlequin (1918): Later published in Le Rappel à L’Ordre (1926) and Collected Works Vol. 9 (1950))
When a work appears to be ahead of its time, it is only the time that is behind the work.
Jean Cocteau
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes, Le Coq et l’Arlequin (1918): Later published in Le Rappel à L’Ordre (1926) and Collected Works Vol. 9 (1950))
You’ve never seen death? Look in the mirror every day and you will see it like bees working in a glass hive.
Mystery has its own mysteries, and there are gods above gods. We have ours, they have theirs. That is what’s known as infinity.
If an addict who has been completely cured starts smoking again he no longer experiences the discomfort of his first addiction. There exists, therefore, outside alkaloids and habit, a sense for opium, an intangible habit which lives on, despite the recasting of the organism.... The dead drug leaves a ghost behind. At certain hours it haunts the house.
Art is science made clear.
Jean Cocteau
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes, Le Coq et l’Arlequin (1918): Later published in Le Rappel à L’Ordre (1926) and Collected Works Vol. 9 (1950))
Be helpful, even if it compromises you.
I am a lie who always speaks the truth.
Poetry is indispensable — if I only knew what for.
See your disappointments as good fortune. One plan's deflation is another's inflation.
Mirrors would do well to reflect a little more before sending back images.
The skin of all of us is responsive to gypsy songs and military marches.
The joy of youth is to disobey, but the trouble is that there are no longer any orders.
He has the manner of a giant with the look of a child, a lazy activeness, a mad wisdom, a solitude encompassing the world.
The reward of art is not fame or success but intoxication: that is why so many bad artists are unable to give it up.
Wealth is an inborn attitude of mind, like poverty. The pauper who has made his pile may flaunt his spoils, but cannot wear them plausibly.
Hate only hatred.
Respect movements, flee schools.
Find first, seek later.
Hasten slowly. Run faster than beauty.
Compromise yourself. Obscure your own trail.
Consider metaphysics as an extension of the physical.
Beauty cannot be recognized with a cursory glance.
Jean Cocteau
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes, Diary of an Unknown (1988): Diary of an Unknown (1988) as translated by Jesse Browner, On Invisibility)
A prig always finds a last refuge in responsibility.
What the public criticizes in you, cultivate. It is you.
Jean Cocteau
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes, Le Coq et l’Arlequin (1918): Later published in Le Rappel à L’Ordre (1926) and Collected Works Vol. 9 (1950))
One must be a living man and a posthumous artist.
Jean Cocteau
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes, Le Coq et l’Arlequin (1918): Later published in Le Rappel à L’Ordre (1926) and Collected Works Vol. 9 (1950))
Do not fear being ridiculous in relation to the ridiculous.
Expect neither reward nor beatitude. Return noble waves for ignoble.
He who is affected by an insult is infected by it.
Understand that some of your enemies are amongst your best friends.
The Louvre is like the morgue; one goes there to identify one’s friends.
Jean Cocteau
• "Le Secret Professionnel" in Le Rappel à l’Ordre (1922; 1926)
  • As quoted by Roger Shattuck in "A Native Son of Paris", Jean Cocteau and the French Scene (1984)
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes)
Don’t for a moment believe He was killing the young; He was costuming angels.
We shelter an angel within us. We must be the guardians of that angel.
Jean Cocteau
• Also quoted in Diary of an Unknown (1991) as translated by Jesse Browne.
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes, Le Coq et l’Arlequin (1918): Later published in Le Rappel à L’Ordre (1926) and Collected Works Vol. 9 (1950))
Fight any instinct to be humorless, for humorlessness is the worst of all absurdities.
Know that your work speaks only to those on the same wavelength as you.
I have a piece of great and sad news to tell you: I am dead.
Jean Cocteau
• "Visite" in Discours du Grand Sommeil (1920); later published in Collected Works Vol. 4 (1947)
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes)
Do not take up cause against the inaccuracies printed about you. They are your protection.
Allow the power of the soul to grow as flagrant as the power of sex.
There are truths which one can only say after having won the right to say them.
Jean Cocteau
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes, Le Coq et l’Arlequin (1918): Later published in Le Rappel à L’Ordre (1926) and Collected Works Vol. 9 (1950))
One is either judge or accused. The judge sits, the accused stands. Live on your feet.
Look out! Be on your guard, because alone of all the arts, music moves all around you.
Jean Cocteau
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes, Le Coq et l’Arlequin (1918): Later published in Le Rappel à L’Ordre (1926) and Collected Works Vol. 9 (1950))
Disavow anyone who provokes or accepts the extermination of a race to which he does not belong.
Be a mere assistant to your unconscious. Do only half the work. The rest will do itself.
Be a constant outrage to modesty There is nothing to fear: modesty is exercised only among the blind.
Anything of any importance cannot help but be unrecognizable, since it bears no resemblance to anything already known.
That pile of paper on his left side went on living like the watch on a dead soldier’s wrist.
Jean Cocteau
• On his visit to the deathbed of Marcel Proust, as quoted in "Cocteau: The Great Enchanter" by Edmund White Vogue (May 1984)
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes)
Depuis le jour de ma naissance, ma mort s'est mise en marche. Elle marche à ma rencontre, sans se presser.
Jean Cocteau
The day of my birth, my death began its walk. It is walking toward me, without hurrying.
• "Postambule" in La Fin du Potomac (1939); later published in Collected Works Vol. 2 (1947)
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes)
Do as the beautiful woman: see to your figure and your petticoats. Though, of course, I am not speaking literally.
People would say to Al Brown: "You are not a boxer. You are a dancer." He laughed at this, and won.
What is history after all? History is facts which become lies in the end; legends are lies which become history in the end.
The ear disapproves but tolerates certain musical pieces; transfer them into the domain of our nose, and we will be forced to flee.
The trouble about the Académie is that by the time they get around to electing us to a seat, we really need a bed.
The ultimate politeness in art consists of speaking only to those who are able to uncover and measure its relationships. Anything else is symbolic, and symbolism is merely transcendental imagery.
Do not close the circle. Leave it open. Descartes closes the circle. Pascal leaves it open. Rousseau's triumph over the encyclopedists is to have left his circle open when they closed theirs.
Accuracy is vexing to a crowd of would-be fantasizers. Hasn't our age coined the term "escapism," when in fact the only way to escape oneself is to allow oneself to be invaded?
Jean Cocteau
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes, Diary of an Unknown (1988): Diary of an Unknown (1988) as translated by Jesse Browner, On Invisibility)
Poetry is a religion without hope. The poet exhausts himself in its service, knowing that, in the long run, a masterpiece is nothing but the performance of a trained dog on very shaky ground.
Jean Cocteau
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes, Diary of an Unknown (1988): Diary of an Unknown (1988) as translated by Jesse Browner, On Invisibility)
A car can massage organs which no masseur can reach. It is the one remedy for the disorders of the great sympathetic nervous system. … The craving for opium can be endured in a car.
Commissions suit me. They set limits. Jean Marais dared me to write play in which he would not speak in the first act, would weep for joy in the second and in the last would fall backward down a flight of stairs.
I met a young man of nineteen or twenty, who at that time vibrated with all the youth of the world. This was Jean Cocteau, then a passionately imaginative youth to whom every great line of poetry was a sunrise, every sunset the foundations of the Heavenly City.
Beauty is always the result of an accident. Of a violent lapse between acquired habits and those yet to be acquired. It baffles and disgusts. It may even horrify. Once the new habit has been acquired, the accident ceases to be an accident. It becomes classical and loses its shock value.
Jean Cocteau
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes, Diary of an Unknown (1988): Diary of an Unknown (1988) as translated by Jesse Browner, On Invisibility)
Poetry is an ethic. By ethic I mean a secret code of behavior, a discipline constructed and conducted according to the capabilities of a man who rejects the falsifications of the categorical imperative. This personal morality may appear to be immorality itself in the eyes of those who lie to themselves, or who live a life of confusion, in such a manner that, for them, a lie becomes the truth, and our truth becomes a lie...
Jean Cocteau
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes, Diary of an Unknown (1988): Diary of an Unknown (1988) as translated by Jesse Browner, On Invisibility)
Man seeks to escape himself in myth, and does so by any means at his disposal... unnable to withdraw into himself, he disguises himself. Lies and inaccuracy give him a few moments of comfort, the trifling feeling of escape experienced at a masked ball. He distances himself from that which he feels and sees. He invents. He transfigures. He mythifies. He creates. He fancies himself an artist. He imitates, in his small way, the painters he claims are mad.
Jean Cocteau
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes, Diary of an Unknown (1988): Diary of an Unknown (1988) as translated by Jesse Browner, On Invisibility)
Poetry, being elegance itself, cannot hope to achieve visibility. In that case, you ask me, of what use is it? Of no use. Who will see it? No one. Which does not prevent it from being an outrage to modesty, though its exhibitionism is squandered on the blind. It is enough for poetry to express a personal ethic, which can then break away in the form of a work. It insists on living its own life. It becomes the pretext for a thousand misunderstandings that go by the name of glory...
Jean Cocteau
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes, Diary of an Unknown (1988): Diary of an Unknown (1988) as translated by Jesse Browner, On Invisibility)
What is line? It is life. A line must live at each point along its course in such a way that the artist’s presence makes itself felt above that of the model... With the writer, line takes precedence over form and content. It runs through the words he assembles. It strikes a continuous note unperceived by ear or eye. It is, in a way, the soul’s style, and if the line ceases to have a life of its own, if it only describes an arabesque, the soul is missing and the writing dies.
Mettez un lieu commun en place, nettoyez-le, frottez-le, éclairez-le de telle sorte qu'il frappe avec sa jeunesse et avec la même fraîcheur, le même jet qu'il avait à sa source, vous ferez œuvre de poète. Tout le reste est littérature.
Jean Cocteau
Take a commonplace, clean it and polish it, light it so that it produces the same effect of youth and freshness and originality and spontaneity as it did originally, and you have done a poet’s job. The rest is literature.
• "Le Secret Professionnel" (originally published 1922); later published in Collected Works Vol. 9 (1950)
• Source: Wikiquote: "Jean Cocteau" (Quotes, A Call to Order (1926): Le Rappel à l’Ordre (1926))

End Jean Cocteau Quotes