Jean Genet, 1981


Until watching Antoine Bourseiller’s film, the only interview I’d seen with Jean Genet was the one filmed by the BBC in 1985 in which a tetchy and evidently irritated Genet made a fool of interviewer Nigel Williams, and compared the whole experience to a police interrogation. (Williams and his interview are memorialised in Iain Sinclair’s Downriver with the words “Is he the one who made a cunt of himself with Genet?”)

Bourseiller’s 52-minute film is very different, presenting a warm and effusive writer who talks at length about lovers, friends (including Alberto Giacometti), posterity (which he dismisses), and his prison experiences. Between the interview sections there are readings from some of his texts. That this is as good as BBC films used to be shows what a wasted opportunity the actual BBC interview was. At the time it was impossible to tell whether Genet was simply a prickly character or whether Williams and company had severely pissed him off. Judged against Bourseiller’s film I’d bet on the latter.

(Note: The YouTube copy is in French but includes optional subtitles.)

Previously on { feuilleton }
Un Chant d’Amour (nouveau)
Jean Genet… ‘The Courtesy of Objects’
Querelle again
Saint Genet
Emil Cadoo
Penguin Labyrinths and the Thief’s Journal
Un Chant D’Amour by Jean Genet

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