Un Chant d'Amour
It's not every day that a 25-minute silent semi-porno gay film from the '50s gets released in a shiny two-disc limited-edition package. Except, that is, when director of said film is French writer Jean Genet. The mainstreaming of porn is a hot topic now, sure, but Un Chant d'Amour (Song of Love) is different beast it's porn with a pedigree.
Set in a prison, a favorite and familiar locale of Genet's, the film features two prisoners and former lovers-on-the-run whose passion for each other continues despite the concrete walls that separate them. There's also a sadistic guard whose repressed gay desire rears after peering in on prisoners in various states of undress and arousal.
Un Chant d'Amour has a loose narrative structure that allows a free-flow of homoerotic imagery similar to the tamer photographic works of Robert Mapplethorpe. Nude male bodies intertwine, light filters through cigarette smoke, and skin glistens with sweat and saliva. Genet denounced the film when he became a popular novelist, which seems strange considering all the political rabble-rousing he did with the Black Panthers, Yasir Arafat and Michel Foucault.
This two-disc DVD also includes two interviews (one of which is billed as a documentary) with Genet conducted when he was in his 70s. It'll interest those wanting to know more about Genet the person. Anyone looking for specific insight on the film may get jilted by Kenneth Anger's commentaries, which are mostly his impressions on pal Genet. That and lots of silence. Much better is the film's introduction by Film Culture founder and film critic Jonas Mekas. Un Chant d'Amour is pretty tame by today's standards, which heightens Mekas' tale of how he personally had to smuggle the film into the United States. Paul Knoll
Magnolia Home Entertainment
Geographically and schematically the inverse of Wedding Crashers instead of two univited letches pretending to be intimates at a wedding, this New Zealand romantic comedy finds four letches who are actually invited to weddings while their relatives pretend not to know them. Things finally come to a head when the younger brother of one of the party animals says they're not invited to his upcoming wedding. A priest concocts a compromise straight out of a 1930s screwball comedy: If the boys all show up with serious girlfriends who can ensure they won't get drunk, carouse or incite a riot involving marzipan, they can attend the ceremony. The rush to find girlfriends leads to some well-worn story ideas that even Captain Stubing could see coming up the gangplank the perfect girl who's right under the nose of the guy too stupid to see it, the stupid guy who thinks he can do better than the perfect girl who's right under his nose and the himbo who falls for a bimbo and gets his comeuppance served up like so much Polynesian humble pie. It's only through the giddy likabilty of the ensemble cast that things never get too treacly. Brought to you by the same producer that gave you Whale Rider, this film has broken all existing box office records for any New Zealand film. Serene Dominic
After a roofing job for immigrant Georgian laborer Sébastien abruptly ends with the death of the Frenchman who hired him, he uses overheard snippets of the now-dead man's conversations to covertly follow through on a "big job" that promises a substantial payoff. Played by George Babluani the brother of Géla Babluani, the film's director Sébastien is neither naïve nor nefarious, but he's wholly unprepared for the insane brutality that plays out when he arrives cloak-and-dagger style at a house in the isolated French countryside. There, a gambling ring is engaged in a horrifying game of Russian roulette that's a cross between a fight club and a human cockfight; should Sébastien prevail over his other, anonymously numbered fellow contestants, he stands to win many thousands of francs. Should he lose ... well, he'll have a bullet in his skull. Dizzyingly tense, 13 Tzameti is shot in black-and-white, a smart decision by the director who makes the film less like a snuff flick and more like a raw, noir thriller. An excellent, harrowing, piece of work. Jason Ferguson
We're All Beelzebubs on this bus! Sure, who doesn't get a little homicidal on long road trips? In fact, these passengers go from Greyhound to hellhounds in three uneasy rest stops, without the aid of bad food, bumpy terrain, plague-infested rest rooms and metal seat backings digging into knees. Part Dante's Inferno and part Murder on the Orient Express, each rider here shares a seat with a dark secret buried in their past and one by one gets picked off by the gathering evil from the traveling priest (simmer down, kids) to the father searching for his lost daughter to the three crazy young adults who decide the one thing a truly creepy bus trip through the scorching desert could really use acid dropping! Every secret will be revealed by journey's end and it's no spoiler to note that Shane Brolly gamely plays the only ticket holder with no redeeming value at both ends of the sojourn. Word of caution: When the devil tells you "It's my way or the highway," uhh, it's really the same way. Serene Dominic
Italians sure know how to open their horror films. In the first three minutes, the body count explodes with nude wrist-cutting, old man asphyxiation, one car explosion, and a wild scene where a suburbanite dad shoots a machine gun into his gut after slaughtering his two kids!
So what's causing of such mayhem? Sunspots! But don't look for much more explanation in this disjointed 1974 giallo flick, whose main storyline focuses on a sexually challenged med student who sees cadavers every time she's about to come. As she and her boyfriend's unending blue balls will soon figure out, nothing is what it seems. Gorehounds: Seek this out. Fans of Oscar-winner Ennio Morricone: Seek this out. His unnerving score is the best thing this head-scratcher has going for it. Jeremy Wheeler
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