U.S., 1973, 113 min, 4K DCP, Dir. Bill Gunn, Rated R, English, Kino Lorber
"A sensual, scholarly, magic-realist exploration of black history and black desire."–A.O. Scott, The New York Times
"An underground classic! The most complicated, intriguing, subtle, sophisticated and passionate black film of the '70s." –James Monaco, American Film Now
This film is part of Strong Black Leads, a celebration of talented filmmakers and performers who, despite the odds, have made remarkable contributions to cinema through their respective crafts.
Flirting with the conventions of blaxploitation and horror, Bill Gunn’s revolutionary independent film Ganja & Hess is a highly stylized and utterly original treatise on sex, religion, and African American identity. Duane Jones (Night of the Living Dead) stars as anthropologist Hess Green, who is stabbed with an ancient ceremonial dagger by his unstable assistant (director Bill Gunn), bestowing upon him the blessing of immortality... and the curse of an unquenchable thirst for blood. When the assistant’s beautiful and outspoken wife Ganja (Marlene Clark) comes searching for her missing husband, she and Hess form an unexpected partnership. Together, they explore just how much power blood holds.
Due to financial woes and scant advertising on the original distributor's part, the film did not do well when it was released in America, but Gunn took matters into his own hands, taking the film to the 1973 Cannes Film Festival where he screened it for Critics Week. There, the film received a standing ovation, which started well before the film ended, and even Josephine Baker lavished praise upon the movie. Sadly, against Gunn's wishes, the original film was re-cut and re-named Blood Couple in an attempt to make the work more mainstream, and the original 35mm version was, like a number of pioneering Black films, almost lost forever.This edition represents the original release, restored by The Museum of Modern Art with support from The Film Foundation, and mastered in HD from a 35mm negative.
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