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While the Pompidou Centre points out the enormous success of the show since it opened in September - not so much bums on seats, as bodies through mirrors (or something dangerously close: the dimly lit maze is littered with full-length mirrors and the show resounds to the muffled thud of bodies encountering unyielding surfaces) - Cocteau retains, even in death, the power to divide.

Of the French daily broadsheets, Le Monde approved it, Le Figaro praised its variety and Libération loathed it.

He was the only non-musician in les Six, a group of composers that included Milhaud, Poulenc and Honegger, who inspired by Satie, were dedicated to the renaissance of French music.

He was the first French critic to champion Modernist writer Gertrude Stein and among the first to recognise the literary talents of Jean Genet, testifying in 1942 that the young thief "was the greatest writer in France".

It's by the inclusion of this last artist that Chaimowicz really throws down the gauntlet, for it raises questions about the most controversial aspect of Cocteau's work, namely the intersection between desire and power.

Best known for his pencil drawings of pneumatically endowed men in improbably optimistic poses, it can be argued that Tom of Finland's sadomasochist illustrations are an erotic - and necessarily homosexual - offshoot of the hyper-masculine in figurative art.

The poet crashes through its glassy, aqueous surface, literally, a leap into the deep end.

But how mesmerised is the rest of the world with Cocteau?

He was gay, and, ipso facto, marginalised from the official avant-garde, who, whatever their revolutionary aesthetic proclivities, could, in matters of sexual mores, be surprisingly reactionary.

Born in 1889 to an upper-middle-class family (his lawyer father committed suicide when Jean was 10), Cocteau - an indifferent pupil whose main achievement during those years seems to have been his meeting with Dargelos, the brawny, schoolboy hunk who would serve as the template for many of his future erotic images - gained early attention as a teenage poet. He was presented to Empress Eugénie, the widow of Napoleon III, and secured the lifelong patronage of the formidable de Noailles family.

Cocteau saw Sarah Bernhardt on stage and visited Marcel Proust in his cork-lined study where, he recalled, "dust covered the furniture like grey fur"; he knew the Dadaists, fought with the Surrealists and worked with Diaghilev's Ballets Russes.

And what is the truth about his support for fascist artists in wartime France?

For Jean Cocteau, the mirror was an entrance to another world.

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Jean Cocteau is remembered for his experimental films and exquisite drawings.