on September 19, 2009
The 1950 film itself is only 25 minutes long, and is about (as Anger tells us, unnecessarily) "how people are separated by walls." They fantasize about each other, or others, are miserable, cry, dream, dance around, masturbating--or just dancing--share the smoke of a cigarette through a tiny hole in a wall, rap messages, or simply noises, to each other. The film is set during a time when the guillotine was still the instrument of execution, and Anger points out that this may account for one man's rubbing his throat. Each man is alone in his prison cell, and one man's cell has a notice on the outside, saying that the occupant has been condemned to death. Have they all?
The actual silence (Genet wanted no music) seems appropriate. There is a recurring image of a short string of lovely white flowers, with, at first, a man's hand reaching for it, missing it, reaching for it, missing it; then in an outdoor fantasy, stroking the flowers which he he holds, and at the end, of the flowers being drawn, by some mysterious force, into the prison from the outside. Although there men cannot see each other, there is a frequently repeated motif of an eye to the hole in the door, watching, watching. The guard beats one of the men, and then forces his gun into the prisoner's mouth (immediately after the fantasy of one man laying another down gently in the woods, and undoing his belt).
The second disk has two LONG interviews with Genet, one made when he was 71 (and called an aut6obiography, but it is not as organized as that) and the second--in which he contradicts almost everything he said in the first!--when he was 72. For instance, in the first, he says he trained himself to feel so deeply, from earliest childhood, that there would be nothing he could do for a livelihood (besides steal) but write. In the second, when asked which book, or play, had given him the most trouble writing, he first names one book--I don't remember which--that he says gave him a little trouble, but mainly, he says "I wrote to get out of prison; writing was really boring." Um...yes. In the first, he rapsodizes about Greece, not only the men he knew there, but the ancient religion--"The Greeks are the only people who have gods they both worship and mock. The Jews could never do this to Yaweh; the Christians, never to Christ." In the second interview, he has little to say about God or gods, but seems to be terribly angry at all white men, "in whose skin I am trapped."
It is all very interesting. Genet has eyes that are perfectly clear and pale, of a blue-gray-green-hazel-brown color, and quite small, at least as an old man. He chain smoked Galoises.
Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself!