Written by: Michael Den Boer on March 1st, 2007
Theatrical Release Date: France, 1950
Director: Jean Genet
Cast: Java, André Reybaz, Coco Le Martiniquais, Lucien Sénémaud
DVD released: February 27th, 2007
Approximate running time: 25 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono
DVD Release: Cult Epics
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.95
Synopsis: Isolated and separated by brick walls two inmates devise a way to communicate with each other.
Controversy followed French writer/author Jean Genet for most of his life. His mother was a prostitute who gave him up for adoption and he would spend most of his youth in prison where he started to writing poetry before moving on to more ambitious works like a novel. While is prison he befriended filmmaker Jean Cocteau who helped get some of his writing published. In 1950 Jean Genet would direct Un chant d’amour a film that was originally intended to be seen only by the Parisian gay porn collectors. The film would go on to achieve a wider audience and its provocative take on homosexuality would get it banned in many countries.
The story primary focuses on three charters two prisoners and a guard. At first the narrative seems pretty straight forward until dream scenarios start to take hold of the narrative. The lack of sound adds to the character’s isolation and after a few minutes one almost forgets that there is no sound as the story becomes totally immersing. It is reported that even though Jean Cocteau is uncreated he was this films cinematographer. The look of the film bears all the style and mood one expects while watching a Cocteau film. There are a few moments of full frontal male nudity which for its time and even by today’s standards is considered taboo. Ultimately Un Chant D’Amour is thought provoking tale about sexual frustration and lack of human contact.
Cult Epics have done a remarkable job transfer Un chant d’amour from its original 35mm source. The image is properly framed in the films original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. There is noticeable print damage, still nothing that ever becomes to distracting. Overall considering this films age and rarity the transfer exceeds all expectations and then some.
No audio was recorded for this film and it is meant to be viewed without sound.
The Extras for this release are spread over two DVD’s. Extras on the first DVD include an eight minute introduction with director Jonas Mekas discusses Un chant d’amour, Jean Genet and how he smuggled in a most clever way a copy of the film into the United States. Rounding out the extras for the first DVD is an audio commentary with director Kenneth Anger who brings up some very interesting observations about the film and homosexuality in cinema in between his many moments where he pauses.
Extras on the second DVD include a 1981 documentary titled Genet which runs about fifty two minutes in length and a 1982 documentary titled Jean Genet which runs about forty five minutes in length. Both documentaries are essentially lengthy interviews with Jean Genet who is candid in his comments as his childhood, writing, cinema and various other subjects.
Also included with this release is an eight page booklet which comes with several black and white photos.
Jean Genet’s only foray as a film director gets a lavish special edition that comes with a wealth of extras that give deeper meaning about Genet and his controversial film.