on 8 July 2003
The first time Genet's masterpiece arrived on video, it was accompanied by two other short films making 90 minutes of video viewing. This made buying the video worthwhile. This DVD presents only the film with a quite interesting commentary. However, considering the film is 25 minutes long, BFI charging full price for this is taking the mickey. yes this is a classic of French short cinema but please don't take us all for mugs.
I first came across this film in Amos Vogel's "Film As A Subversive Art", it stood out, but not really enough to warrant paying 19.99 for. After a while i couldnt resist and just bought it, and now i am truly stunned this film isn't far more famous.
It's a silent 25 minute long homosexual french film set in an all male prison. The focus of it is on repression, lust, and love, but the thing that particularly stands out is the outstanding visual beauty of the film.
I don't want to give too much of the incredibly minimal plot away, but the scene where all the prisoners are dancing erotically in their individual cells, getting more and more frantic while wildly shaking their bodies is just incredibly powerful, as is the arabic prisoner's dream of an idyllic and beautiful day in the woods with the prisoner in the adjoining cell. There are numerous other moments which truly take your breath away and the music has been specially created fairly recently, and it is just so fitting: lots of reeds, pipes, jungle drums. So thats perfect as well.
Honestly my expectations weren't incredibly high, and the fact that Genet only made one film made me feel wary, but i can honestly say to you that this film deserves to be up there in the top 10 list along with the likes of Olympia, Seven Samurai, Dekalog, Celine and Julie. I can't imagine anyone disliking this film unless they were particularly homophobic, but then if that was the case not seeing this due to that would be a great loss.
Trust me, this is an absolute masterpiece.
on 22 February 2010
I'm a great fan of Genet, and I was keen to see his only realised film project. I watched it three times straight off! In dungeon-like cells, men in solitary confinement succeed in making contact with each other while a guard (ourselves) spies on them, torments one of them, and fantasises. It's a complex, disturbing and extraordinarily beautiful film, powerfully romantic and erotic, and celebrating the beauty of the male body and its gestures - all in a series of stunning images. My favourite (a difficult choice) is of a sprig of blossom tucked into a prisoner's open jacket, only just visible against a hairy chest, and right over the heart.
The extras consist of very brief biographies of Genet and of Simon Fisher Turner, who wrote the excellent soundtrack, and a commentary which isn't particularly interesting. I would've expected more for the price.
on 5 July 2012
Firstly, note the overall length of the film: we are not talking about a full length feature, but a 20 minute short.
It's very atmospheric and quite surprising that the society of the day didn't ban it for the nominal 'hardcore' content. I can imagine that it raised a few eyebrows when it came out.
It's a very good film and worth adding to any art-house collection. Glad I bought it.