Un Chant D'Amour (Jean Genet, 1950, France)

Un Chant D'Amour is the first and only film directed by legendary author Jean Genet. Made in 1950, the film was certainly one of the first to express homosexual desire in an explicit way. While earlier short films such as Kenneth Anger's 1947 film Fireworks addressed this topic and courted controversy, the explicit nature of Un Chant D'Amour made it nearly inaccessible for many years. The film only circulated amongst private collectors, and the film was attempted to be shown three times, first in France in 1954. Jonas Mekas, a pioneer of underground cinema, attempted to show the film in 1964 but failed. Again Sal Landau attempted to show the film in 1966, but police stopped this from happening. The film was only shown in 1972 in Denmark. 

It is easy to understand why the film was perceived so dangerously, as it has frank expressions of gay desire. The film represents symbolic longing, showing men in jail cells, frustrated with desire. There are also fantasy sequences, with the men imagining they are free and able to run through the grass and fields. It is remarkable how ahead of his time Genet was in terms of what he was willing to express - it would take another two decades before such expressions become more apparent in the culture. The film's cinematography by legendary filmmaker Jean Cocteau is beautiful, with a heavy emphasis on light and shadow. The film also uses heavily metaphorical imagery, including a hand gripping flowers, which seems to have been an influence on Robert Mapplethorpe. Un Chant d'Amour is a silent film, but numerous soundtracks have accompanied the film over the year. Overall, Un Chant d'Amour deserves to be seen not only for its historical significance but also for its excellent and influential sense of style. It is shame that Genet didn't decide to direct more films. 



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