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Book Reviews JaneGiles. U n c h a n t d ’a m o u r . L e c in é m a d e J e a n G e n e t . Paris: Editions Macula, 1993. Pp. 160. This study transforms a doctoral dissertation (published under the title of Jean Genet. Un chant d ’amour [London: British Film Institute, 1991]) into a synthetic view of Genet’s relations with cinema. Organized around a shot-by-shot description (accompanied by 40 crisp photograms) of Genet’s only finished film, Un chant d ’amour (1950, 25 minutes), the work assembles all materials concerning the writer and his relations with cinema: the late Serge Daney’s terse summary of the film; Edmund White’s biographical preface that situ­ ates the paradoxically crucial and marginal role film making played in Genet’s writing; two essays by Jane Giles that review Un chant d ’amour, six other unfinished scenarios, plus Genet’s adaptations and appearances in other films; Philippe-Alain Michaud’s close read­ ing that touches on metamorphosis and deterritorialization, tactile and ocular perception, and relations of phantasm and framing; Genet’s scripts for the production of Le Bagne (1952), Le Bleu de l ’œ il (1976, with notes by Jean-Bernard Moraly); Albert Dichy and Edmund W hite’s interview that covers all of the principal themes (eroticism, poetry of incarnation, the penal gaze, cineasts who inspire Genet); a filmography listing the films Genet wrote, his adaptations, and the features in which he played roles or that influenced his writing; a complete biofilmography. Genet’s film figured prominently in underground cinema of the 1950s. It was shot by Jacques Natteau, director of photography for Renoir’s La Bête humaine (1938), and pro­ duced by Nico Papatakis, director of Les Abysses (1963), a gory film about two maids who murder their masters, that inspired the plot of Les Bonnes. The film’s affinities with Cocteau’s Le Sang d ’un poète (1930) and Kenneth Anger’s Fireworks (1947) are striking. By using a cast of amateurs—vagrants, even criminals—to perform acts of homoerotic fan­ tasy Genet offers a reflection on the limits of the medium. Filmed images become desired objects because they mirror a viewer’s desire to order and control others’ bodies. Appear­ ing and disappearing, the same images occlude desire, thus yielding ambivalent drives that confuse creativity with perversion. For Genet close-ups synthesize a mute but stunningly erotic violence afforded through editing. They dedifferentiate gendered zones of the body, inspiring in us pleasures—with­ out which life would be insufferably violent or morose—of regressive phantasy. The closeup becomes an area where language and image intermingle (gros plan anticipating a “ fat project,” a throbbing body-part stuck—planté—in a receptive cavity. . .). Liminary figures of desire, all parts of “ dialogic’’ areas of consciousness, circulate through verbal fragments staging scenes of congress. As seen in Un chant d ’amour, two prisoners make love by means of a straw inserted through a wall by blowing cigarette smoke into each other’s throats. In the sight of the smoke being emitted we taste a rich mixture of spittle, semen, and language. But this is only one of many different pleasures we reap from this insightful, prismatic, and carefully documented study. The French edition of Jane Giles’ work is a welcome and powerful contribution to Genet and to film studies in general. T om C o n l e y University o f Minnesota VOL. XXXV, NO. 1 79 ...


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