America’s Most Wanted: The Queer Underground
Un Chant d’Amour
The only film by legendary French writer Jean Genet, Un Chant d’Amour remains an iconic landmark of queer cinema for its lyrical, often surreal portrayal of the depravation and despair of male prisoners in solitary confinement. The film was banned in the US in 1966, after a Berkeley screening led to a prolonged court case. Long admired by everyone from Jean Cocteau to Todd Haynes (who pays homage to it in his New Queer Cinema classic Poison), Genet’s film will screen in a recently struck 35mm print.
1950/b&w/26 min. | Scr/dir: Jean Genet
Jack Smith described Flaming Creatures as “a comedy set in a haunted movie studio.” Largely comprised of the vampings of a motley cast of extravagantly dressed (and undressed), bohemians, Flaming Creatures remains one of the most controversial films of the last fifty years.
Dogged by law-enforcement authorities ever since its midnight premiere in the spring of 1963, Jack Smith’s film has perhaps the most storied journey of any underground movie, and serves as a testament to the censorship against which queer filmmakers struggled. In Belgium, Jonas Mekas, the film’s distributor and biggest champion, screened it his hotel room to guests including Jean Luc Godard, Agnes Varda and Roman Polanski, and later dropped it between reels of Andy Warhol’s Sleep during a public screening, causing a small riot and intervention of the Minister of Justice. In March of 1964, two NYPD detectives raided a screening of the film, impounded the print and arrested everyone working at the theater, among them the film’s projectionist (experimental filmmaker Ken Jacobs), the case went to trial in New York and led to a conviction for both Jacobs and Mekas. A confiscated print ended up in Washington, D.C. where the Supreme Court upheld the ruling; later one of the dissenting judges had his opinion used against him as he sought confirmation to be Chief Justice, which improbably led to a screening of the film in the capital under the auspices of Senator Strom Thurmond.
In her defense of the film, Susan Sontag called it, “that rare modern work of art: it is about joy and innocence.”
1963/b&w/43 min./16mm | Scr/dir: Jack Smith
Rock ‘n roll sides, ample leather, and Marlon Brando all figure into Kenneth Anger’s seminal paean to biker culture. The same day Jonas Mekas was arrested in New York for screening Genet’s Un Chant d’Amour as a benefit for the defense fund in the Flaming Creatures lawsuit, across the country Michael Getz was taken into custody by a vice squad in Los Angeles for playing Anger’s film in his Hollywood theater.
1963/color/30 min. | Scr/dir: Kenneth Anger
Please note: Films may not be suitable for all audiences, viewer discretion is advised.
Bing Theater | Free, tickets required | Tickets: 323 857-6010 or reserve online.