Death in Venice

Death in Venice ★½

cw: pedophilia

Björn Andrésen, who plays the adolescent object of desire in Death in Venice, has spoken extensively about how gross this movie has made him feel in the decades since its release. In particular, he's recounted how director Luchino Visconti made him go to a gay bar at Cannes that year, where he was ogled by the much older clientele, and how gross and objectified it made him feel. His career after Death in Venice has been more or less devoted to distancing himself from it.

It's hard not to think of that while watching the movie itself, which is, at the end of the day, about a middle-aged man who wants to fuck a 14-year-old boy. We gays got our own Lolita! Hooray! The movie's ickiness is offset a little bit in that the man and boy never actually speak or directly interact in any way, but it's then compounded by the rhetorical knots it twists itself into trying to make this all seem remotely okay. No, the movie says, Death in Venice is really about beauty, not lust; the man sees the boy as one sees an objectively beautiful work of art, like Michelangelo's David. Uh huh.

The star-and-a-half is for the way Visconti, at least, manages to make two hours of someone staring at someone else not as boring as it should be, and for the stunning cinematography, and for the use of Mahler. Everything else can be dunked right into the fucking trash.