Jean Genet in Chicago & Un Chant d'Amour

Monday, July 21, 2008 - 8:30 pm

Programmed by Amy Kazymerchyk

Frédéric Moffett is interested in revolt. Not necessarily political revolution, but revolt as Julia Kristeva defines it as “a permanent state of questioning, transformation, [and] an endless probing of appearances. His film Jean Genet in Chicago, which he refers to as a ‘thief video’, is a poignant revolt against apathy and malaise in contemporary American culture. Saturated with appropriated quotations from literature, media archives, and Genet’s memoirs, the film transforms anecdotes of his historical visit to Chicago in 1968 to cover the National Democratic Convention into a reflection on political decay, social dislocation, and the roots of radical queer consciousness.

One the most contentious and openly queer scenes in Jean Genet in Chicago was clearly ‘thieved’ from Genet’s own film Un Chant d’Amour. In Moffett’s film, Genet is repeatedly distracted from praising the successes of America’s radical movements by sexually objectifying the Chicago Police. This contention between political values and sexual desires grips the heart of Un Chant d’Amour. Its narrative is set in a French prison where a guard takes pleasure in observing two prisoners act out their unrequited love through masturbatory gestures on either side of the brick wall that separates them. Shot in 1950, this erotic visual poem was clearly influenced by Genet’s African military service, which no doubt ignited a psychic struggle between his attraction and repulsion to state power and force. Frédéric Moffett’s interest in revolt is no doubt inspired by Genet’s, and it is an honor to show these two poignant films together.

Frédéric Moffett, Jean Genet in Chicago. 2006, 26mins, Beta SP B&W, Canada/USA.
Jean Genet, Un Chant d’Amour. 1950, 25mins, newly restored 35mm print B&W, France.