Un Chant d'Amour [DVD] [1950]

The celebrated novelist, playwright and iconoclast Jean Genet wrote and directed this striking meditation on loneliness, brutality and sexual longing behind prison walls (all common themes in his writings), which has been given a well-rounded release in this edition from Cult Epics. Un Chant D'amour has been brought to DVD in its original full-frame aspect ratio of 1.33:1; while the source print is a bit worse for wear in spots, this transfer makes the most of the images, and captures the richness of the photography with striking results. The film is presented silent, but an optional commentary track featuring Kenneth Anger has been included; unfortunately, while the pairing seems inspired, Anger doesn't have much to say about the movie beyond recalling witnessing an early screening (with Genet in attendance), and there are long gaps of silence during the film's twenty-five minutes. The film is prefaced by an introduction from archivist Jonas Mekas, who talks about the film's history and his role in bringing it to the United States. A second disc features two additional films: Genet, a documentary on the author dominated by a long interview with him as well as readings from his work, and Jean Genet, an interview with Genet conducted by Bertrand Poirot-Delpech in which he talks about his interest in radical politics, his writing style and how his criminal life informed his work. Both are in French, with optional English subtitles, and the monophonic audio is mastered in Dolby Digital Stereo, while the images are transferred to disc in the full-frame ratio of 1.33:1. Anyone with an interest in Jean Genet will want to give this package a look -- in addition to presenting the man's only work as a film director, it offers an interesting insight on the author, his life and his work that's potent and fascinating.
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Overview

Special Features

  • Disc I:
  • New film transfer
  • Introduction by Jonas Mekas
  • Audio commentary by Kenneth Anger
  • Still photo booklet
  • Disc II:
  • Documentary by Antoine Bourseiller
  • Documentary by Bertrand Poirot-Delpech

Synopsis

Un Chant d'amour
Jean Genet, the novelist, playwright, political activist and gadfly who became a (literal) outlaw literary hero in France, directed his first and only film in this notorious silent short subject. Set in a French prison, Un Chant D'amour explores the crushing loneliness and thwarted desires of men behind bars, as well as the sadistic impulses of the men who look after them. Two prisoners whose cells are next to one another are desperate to make contact, but the Morse code they tap on the walls and the cigarette smoke they blow through straws are as close as they can come to human interaction. As the men lose themselves in homoerotic fantasy and self gratification, a guard watches their actions though a series of peep holes, and chooses to sadistically beat one of his charges, who uses his daydreams to escape the pain. Featuring a great deal of nudity and explicit sexual content (especially for a film made in 1950), Un Chant D'amour was originally intended to be sold only among collectors of erotica, and its few public screenings in the 1950's and early 60's led to it being declared obscene in France and the United States. After standards for motion picture content became more lenient in the 1970's, the film was occasionally revived at art houses, though Genet spoke negatively of it later in his life. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Image coming soon
    Lucien Senemaud - Younger Convict
  • Image coming soon
    Coco Le Martiniquais - Dancing African prisoner
  • Image coming soon
    André Reybaz - Stand-in
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