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Jean Genet (1910 - 1986)

Lifespan: 1910 - 1986

Related: gay cinema - Un chant d'amour (1950) - French literature - French cinema

Everyone knows Jean Genet, the title of the song "Jean Genie" from the album Aladdin Sane by David Bowie is a pun on Genet's name.

Our Lady of the Flowers (1944) - Jean Genet [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

A wildly imaginative fantasy of the Parisian underworld, the novel tells the story of Divine, a male prostitute who consorts with thieves, pimps, murderers, and other criminals and who has many sexual adventures. Written in lyrical, dreamlike prose, the novel affirms a new moral order, one in which criminals are saints, evil is glorified, and conventional taboos are freely violated.

Querelle (1982) - Rainer Werner Fassbinder [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Handsome sailor Georges Querelle (Brad Davis) is a thief and murderer and has hidden his booty all over the world. When his ship, the Vengeur, arrives in Brest, he visits the Feria, a brothel run by Lysiane (Jeanne Moreau), whose lover Robert is Querelle's brother. Fassbinder's adaptation features surreal sets that underscore the dreamlike quality and abstraction of the novel. It was Fassbinder's final and, by his own words, most important movie.

Criminal Desires: Jean Genet and Cinema (2002) - Jane Giles [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Jean Genet, the author notorious for his overt celebration of criminality and homosexuality in such novels as Miracle of the Rose, Funeral Rites and Querelle of Brest, was also fascinated with the possibilities of cinema.

Genet made his only film, Un Chant díAmour, in 1950. The result was a poetic and sexually explicit visual paean to homosexual desire, the criminal impulse, and the power of imagination to transcend physical captivity. Banned and prosecuted for obscenity, Un Chant díAmour, has since become a cause celebre of gay rights and freedom of expression, as well as being recognised as a masterpiece of underground cinema in its own right.

CRIMINAL DESIRES contains complete documentation of the making of Chant díAmour, including an illustrated shot-by-shot description, thematic analysis, and exhibition history. The book also documents Genetís many other unfilmed screenplays, film appearances by Genet himself, and finally the screen adaptations of Genetís work made by other film directors, including The Balcony, Deathwatch, The Maids, Todd Haynes' Poison, and Rainer Werner Fassbinderís extraordinary and apocalyptic vision of Querelle.


Jean Genet (born illegitimately on December 19, 1910 in Paris, died April 15, 1986 in Paris) was a novelist, playwright, and poet. His novels and plays, full of sexual situations, usually deal with pimps, thieves, gay men and other social outcasts, reflecting his own experiences as a gay prison inmate.

Having been accused of stealing at age ten, Genet decided to become an actual thief and spent his teenage years in youth prison. Later, as a variety of sources have reported, he lived as a male prostitute. In 1943, he was convicted to serve a life-long sentence and decided to take up writing.

His first novel, widely regarded as his best, Our Lady of the Flowers (1944), describes a journey through the Parisian underworld. In The Miracle of the Rose (1946), he focuses on his life in prison, where he meets men again who had been his lovers in youth prison. Jean-Paul Sartre, Jean Cocteau, and Pablo Picasso found his work so brilliant, that eventually he was pardoned in 1948.

Later works by him include The Thief's JournalQuerelle (1947), the movie version of which was the last film directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Todd Haynes' 1991 movie Poison was also based on the writings of Genet.

Famous plays authored by him are The Maids (1949) and The Balcony (1956). Genet also directed a movie in 1950, Un Chant d'Amour.

Genet was also involved in radical politics, including supporting the Black Panthers, and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

He is remembered in David Bowie's song "Jean Genie". --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Genet [Jan 2005]

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