Un chant d’amour

Jean Genet‘s only film, which he directed in 1950. Because of its explicit (though artistically presented) homosexual content, the 26-minute movie was long banned and even disowned by Genet later in his life. The plot is set in a French prison, where a prison guard takes voyeuristic pleasure in observing the prisoners perform masturbatory sexual acts. In two adjacent cells, there is an older Algerian-looking man and a handsome convict in his twenties. The older man is in love with the younger one, rubbing himself against the wall and sharing his cigarette smoke with his beloved through a straw. The prison guard, apparently jealous of the prisoner’s relationship, enters the older convict’s cell, beats him, and makes him suck on his gun in an unmistakably sexual fashion. However, the inmate drifts off into a fantasy where he and his object of desire roam the countryside. In the final scene, it becomes clear that the guard’s power is no match for the intensity of attraction between the prisoners, even though their relationship is not consummated. Genet does not use dialogue in his film, but focuses instead on close-ups of bodies, on faces, armpits, and penises. The film’s highly sexualized atmosphere has been recognized as a formative factor for works such as the films of Andy Warhol. if you like the film, please leave a comment below. Credits do not list any characters or actors, some of whom remain unknown. If you have any info please leave a reply below


Bravo’ (nickname; real name unknown) as the Older Prisoner was a Tunisian from nefta who was a barber with a big family to support

Lucien Sénémaud (real name) as the Younger Prisoner. He was introduced to Jean Genet by Jean Cocteau with whom he had served in the French army. Genet fell passionately in love with 18-year-old Lucien Sénémaud, about whom he wrote, “His beauty harpooned me.” The two men formed a passionate, and volatile, couple; He was a married man whose wife supported him in appearing in the film.

Java André Reybaz plays the Guard. Reybaz had a long career spanning forty years, which mostly consisted of numerous French television appearances.

Coco Le Martiniquais … Second dancing prisoner (uncredited)

Set Genet had an extensive prison set built amidst the ground floor restaurant of Nico’s Rose Rouge (the famous nightclub was in the basement). Exteriors were shot, on the sly, at both the Fresnes and La Santé prisons, where Genet had served most of the cumulative four years of his adult incarceration. The forest sequence was shot near Fontainebleu at Milly-la-Forêt, on Cocteau’s property. There is some controversy over the extent of Cocteau’s presence: Edmund White believes it was minimal, while Jonas Mekas says that Nico told him it was extensive. No one, however, doubts that the film is unquestionably Genet’s own creation. Genet’s rough cut ran 45 minutes, but he gradually trimmed it into its taut final running time of 25 minutes. (Source)

Banned When in 1966 distributor Sol Landau attempted to exhibit the film in Berkeley, California, he was informed by a member of the local police special investigations department that were he to continue screening it the film “would be confiscated and the person responsible arrested.” Landau responded by instituting the case of Landau v. Fording (1966) in which he sought to show Genet’s work without police harassment. The Alameda County Superior Court watched the film twice and declared that it “explicitly and vividly revealed acts of masturbation, oral copulation, the infamous crime against nature [a euphemism for sodomy], voyeurism, nudity, sadism, masochism and sex…” The court rejected Landau’s suit, further condemning the film as “cheap pornography calculated to promote homosexuality, perversion and morbid sex practices.” He was similarly rebuffed in the District Court of Appeal of California, which accepted that Genet was a major writer but cited this as a lesser work of an early period and declared that in the end it was “nothing more than hard-core pornography and should be banned.” When the case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, the decision was confirmed once more, in a 5-4 per curiam decision in which the justices simply stated that Un Chant d’amour was obscene and offered no further explanation. —Jonathon Green and Nicholas J Karolides, The Encyclopedia of Censorship.

3 thoughts on “Un chant d’amour

  1. I thought it was a pretty good flick. With no dialogue and the fever pitch, it was very obvious what the older prisoner wanted. If it meant being in a jail cell next to him, I would have done anything he wanted to have just a glimpse of him!

  2. I loved it. A throwback to silent acting techniques where gesture and facial expression were the author’s erotic language, amazing cast and cinematography.

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