A while back, Cult Epics released a 2-disc limited edition of Un Chant D’Amour. This single-disc reissue features a number of the features (though not all) from the limited release. The actual film and transfer quality are the same, and so much of this review is likewise the same.
Long the bad boy of French novelists, Jean Genet directed this 25-minute short in 1950. Borderline pornographic, it is a silent portrayal of (literally) imprisoned desire. Two prisoners convey their longing for one another through the prison walls, while a voyeuristic guard watches, becoming aroused and frustrated to the point of violence. poetic, fetishistic, and intensely personal, it is a startling and historic piece of underground cinema.
It is near miraculous that the film exists in an intact form, so the print gets points simply for that existence. It also looks pretty good, all things considered. There is speckling and grain, but neither are too severe, and the black-and-white tones are good. The image is also surprisingly sharp. The aspect ratio is the original 1.33:1.
Consider the rating a place-holder, because we don’t have a star equivalent for “Not Applicable.” This is a completely silent film. Not even a score. As for the extras, their sound is clear enough.
Commentary Track: Kenneth Anger (I didn’t know he was still alive) does the honours, and given that he was working in the same vein as Genet and at the same time, he would seem to be the obvious choice for this task. But he frequently drifts off into silence, and doesn’t really have too much to say about the movie.
This edition drops the photo booklet and in-depth interview with Genet that came with the limited edition. The features are otherwise identical.
Video Introduction: Provided by Jonas Mekas, a seminal figure in the development of underground and midnight cinema in New York, who was responsible for bringing the movie to the US. Interesting stuff.
Genet: A 52-minute documentary (largely an interview with Genet in 1981, but accompanied by readings of his texts). It’s a good look into the mind of an important writer, but is obviously not about the movie.
If anyone missed the original release, this is a nice second opportunity to land an significant moment in underground cinema history.