Jean-Daniel Cadinot Passes Away

Jeremy Spencer
PARIS — Gay director Jean-Daniel Cadinot passed away April 23 of a heart attack. He was 64. confirmed the director’s passing through Cadinot’s production company, French Art.

According to Wikipedia, a teenage Cadinot hoped to become a painter and, due to parental opposition, ran away from home at the age of 17.

In the early 1960s, he studied at École des Arts et Métiers and at the National School of Photography. He then began his professional career at Valois Studios, where he directed mainstream films for French-speaking audiences.

He first pursued a career in photography in 1972, which took on a homosexual angle with his nude portrait of writer Yves Navarre and singer Patrick Juvet. His erotic photographs appeared in the first edition of French magazine Gai Pied. He began to sell nude photographs — hundreds of thousands of them — and finally moved to directing movies in 1978.

Setting up his own production company, French Art, Cadinot made dozens of 16mm films, usually with specific settings or themes, such as an excursion of French boy scouts, life in a boarding school or a journey to Venice, greatly contributing to the erotic appeal of the works through the specific situations depicted. Often these themes were somewhat derived from Cadinot's life experiences, especially from his youth.

His first film through French Art was “Tendres Adolescents.”

Cadinot's early films are often regular movies with occasional hardcore gay sex scenes interspersed. Rather than just portraying a string of sexual encounters with minimal dialogue, they showcase Cadinot's fascination with characterization, lighting, and his often slightly jocular approach to gay sexuality.

Cadinot also directed several films under the pseudonym Tony Dark.

He viewed filmmaking as gay activism.

“The still photo became too limiting. I quickly reached its boundaries and I had a desire for action and movement,” he once said. “I wanted to go further, to tell our collective stories as gay men. Video enabled me to do just that. I have to say that when I’m shooting photos I prefer to work as an artist and make artistic photos because otherwise it’s not long before it gets pornographic and I don’t like that. In that sense there was a progressive evolution towards films in order for me to tell stories about men. In a way it was my first gay activism to illustrate our sexual stories.”

Cadinot would write, produce and direct some 65 films over 30 years; he won Best Director from the GAYVN Awards in 1991 for “The Traveling Journeyman,” and Best Director honors (1997 and 2001) from the Venus Awards in Berlin.

In 2001 he was inducted into the GAYVN Hall of Fame.

The final entry on Cadinot’s blog, written on the day of his death, was eerily prophetic:

“If you’re reading these words I will have put down my camera, switched off the lights, drawn the curtains and taken my final bow,” Cadinot wrote. “May all the efforts and work of a whole life, the quest for the moment of pure truth in the sublime communion of two beings under the spell of the undefinable desire for the other, inspire those who inherit my heart.

“The human being is made such that it only remembers the good and the beautiful, therefore I leave you with a free mind and a head overflowing with a myriad of young men, sometimes strong and vigorous, sometimes fragile and sensitive. All of them gave me these unforgettable moments of their most tender intimacy, moments that only a few really know but which I made into images to allow you to admire them over and over again.

“Never were success or personal fortune my creed. You offered me gratitude, and I thank you for that because I wanted nothing else. Cadinot salutes you. Remember a kindly fellow, an extreme observer given to rages and contradiction but who listened to others and was full of love.

“An erect phallus is a symbol of life, a cross a symbol of death.”

For more information, visit Cadinot’s site.