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A Song of Love (1950)
"Un chant d'amour" (original title)

 |  Short, Fantasy, Romance  |  1975 (France)
7.5
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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 1,873 users  
Reviews: 13 user | 23 critic

Two prisoners in complete isolation, separated by the thick brick walls, and desperately in need of human contact, devise a most unusual kind of communication.

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Cast

Credited cast:
André Reybaz ...
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Storyline

Inmates in a French prison are attempting to fulfill their sexual and emotional needs under the confines of their individual cells. Two inmates in particular, who are in adjacent cells, try to make that connection to the other, both physical and emotional, in whatever way they can. In their current attempt to do so, they are so caught up in the fulfillment they receive of that connection that they fail to notice that a voyeuristic guard has been watching them through the small peep holes in their otherwise solid cell doors. The guard was tipped to the activity by one of the two men trying to pass a bouquet of wild flowers to the other via their barred cell windows. The guard confronts one of the inmates. Although their encounter is primarily violently physical, each man copes with the situation by fantasizing about what is truly in his heart. Written by Huggo

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Short | Fantasy | Romance

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1975 (France)  »

Also Known As:

A Song of Love  »

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1.37 : 1
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Trivia

Only film directed by playwright Jean Genet. See more »

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Featured in Ecce Homo (1989) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A provocative, artistic study of human nature and (homosexual) desire
13 July 2012 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Anyone who has read any of the novels or plays of Jean Genet will pretty much know what to expect from 'Un Chant d'Amour'. Genet, in works like 'Miracle of the Rose', and 'The Thief's Journal' adhered admirably to the axiom to "write what you know" and drew upon his experiences of a lifetime in and out of French penitentiaries to initiate the reader into a seedy criminal underworld saturated with a poignant homo-erotic light, populated by characters who display vulnerability in their brutality and beauty in the tragic empty determinism of their lives. However, the predictability of the content of 'Un Chant d'Amour' does not detract from the film in the slightest but rather fleshes out (pun intended) Genet's poetic vision and suggests how he could have further elaborated this vision if he had made more than this single short film.

The film begins with inmates blindly attempting to pass a flower from cell to cell, and this poetic metaphor of communication serves as the conceptual heart of the film as we're introduced to a series of inmates, whose needs for expression and communication, whether it be linguistic or sexual, are routinely denied and whose unfulfilled desires becomes all encompassing and unbearable. This realm of repressed desire is overseen by the warden who peers into the cells and ogles the men, enjoying the incarceration he enacts moment-by-moment with sadistic glee, and yet whose own sexual desire is as unfulfilled as that of the prisoners and feels driven to seek consummation through abuse.

The inherent voyeuristic potential of cinema is something which would later be successfully explored by Hitchcock in films such as 'Rear Window' (1954) and 'Psycho' (1960) as well as Michael Powell in the controversial 'Peeping Tom' (1960); this movie predates the work of both and yet seems to be fully aware of its subversive positioning of the viewer as both voyeur and fetishist as the bodies of the inmates are coveted in a pornographic fashion. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that such an explicit depiction of homosexual desire has the potential to alienate some… indeed, curiously Genet himself later disowned the film on the grounds that it is too pornographic! However, begging to differ with Saint Genet, for my money the humane treatment of the characters, the carefully crafted atmosphere, and the cinematography courtesy of Jean Cocteau are easily enough to redeem 'Un Chant d'Amour' as a work of art (in a similar way to how Kenneth Anger's 1947 debut 'Fireworks' escaped a obscenity charge on the grounds of being Art).

However, this said, even at 26 minutes I still felt the film was a tad longer than it should have been and easily could have been trimmed down to be under 20 minutes. Still, what remains is both an important early cinematic exploration of male desire as well as a study of the double-edged sword of torture and solace human desire, independent of sexual orientation, can bestow.


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