“As Nameless as a Flower”: The Exhaustions and Excesses of Outliving in Ganja & Hess


This essay links two 20th-century writer/intellectuals whose pairing might appear improbable. But the regions shared by French literary critic Maurice Blanchot and Black American filmmaker Bill Gunn emerge through each figure’s concern with the obsessional image that shows “interiority” to be a “gravity,” always oriented outward; and therefore, lapsed or subjected in relation to itself. My investigation’s object is Gunn’s 1973 film Ganja & Hess. Conceived by its corporate producers as a “blaxploitation/vampire” vehicle, it becomes instead Gunn’s unofficial Cannes triumph; it is, for one venerated critic, “the most complicated, intriguing, subtle, sophisticated and passionate Black film of the 70s.

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