Anthology Film Archives: Pull My Daisy & Un Chant D’Amour
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Two classic underground films from the 1950s are going to be screened back-to-back. First is Jean Genet’s Un Chant D’Amour (1950) and second is Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie’s Pull My Daisy (1959).
Pull My Daisy is a classic of Beat cinema and is based on an unfinished play written by Jack Kerouac, who provides the poetic narration. A working class husband embarrasses his wife when his unruly poet friends — played by real-life poets Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso — crash a dinner party being held for a bishop and his family. The film is based on a true story from Kerouac’s life.
The making of Pull My Daisy is covered extensively in Jack Sargeant‘s essential underground film history book Naked Lens: Beat Cinema, which also includes lengthy interviews with both directors separately providing great detail into the background and production of the film as well as the falling out the filmmakers later had.
Pull My Daisy had it’s infamous premiere on Nov. 11, 1959 in a double-bill screening with the second version of John Cassavetes’ Shadows. In the introduction to a reissue of Parker Tyler’s Underground Film: A Critical History, film critic J. Hoberman described the Nov. 11 screening as when “the Underground announced itself.”
Also, in his initial review of Pull My Daisy, Jonas Mekas, then critiquing underground films in the Village Voice, described the film as a cornerstone of the New American Cinema movement. Here are some excerpts from Mekas’ original review:
I don’t see how I can review any film after Pull My Daisy without using it as a signpost … The photography itself, its sharp, direct black-white has a visual beauty and truth that is completely lacking in recent American and European films … Pull My Daisy is returning to where the true cinema first began, to where Lumiere left off … Pull My Daisy reminds us again of that sense of reality and immediacy that is cinema’s first property … It is therefore that I consider Pull My Daisy in all its inconsequentiality, the most alive and the most truthful of films.
Un Chant D’Amour is the only film directed by the famous French novelist, playwright and philosopher Jean Genet. This is a silent black-and-white film in which prisoners confined to their cells and separated by thick cement walls still find a way to communicate and share their desires. This is a classic of both underground and queer cinema that was quite scandalous back in its time, both for its implied homoerotic images and for images of erect male genitalia. Actually, several of the images could be considered still quite scandalous today.
Underground Film Feedback (3 comments)
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I thought Pull My Daisy screened with the second version of Shadows (since the first version premiered in 1958)?
You’re right. I was reading through Movie Journal too quickly last night and got mixed up. I fixed the info above. Thanks!
No problem. These are both seminal works of underground cinema…although Un Chant D’Amour has aged far better in my opinion. I just rewatched the latter and it’s still stirring. Meanwhile, Pull My Daisy feels chained to its time and place.