HONG KONG — I fell in love with Jean Cocteau when I was 19. I spent nights taking photographs of his epic 1930 film The Blood of a Poet frame by frame. The infatuation was similar to one I had with Picasso, whose paintings I copied obsessively, determined to learn the language of the man who made “Guernica.” In both cases, my heart was eventually broken. First, I learned Picasso used women like he used his paintbrushes. Then it transpired that Cocteau was a Nazi sympathizer. It was hard to know where I stood with both artists afterwards.
Inveterate surrealist and playwright, artist, and writer polymath Jean Cocteau said that his first film, The Blood of a Poet (1929), wasn’t a work of surrealism — he wanted to “avoid the deliberate manifestations of the unconscious.” But, I have to say, it’s pretty surreal.
It’s inevitable not to compare the new show at the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute to last year’s blockbuster, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, however unfair that might be. But it doesn’t matter, because Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations, a pairing of two disparate designers that gives far too much precedence to the latter, falls flat, regardless of what preceded it.