I’ve been seeking out films that embody the spirit of D’Annunzio, of Wilde, of Rimbaud, of Baudelaire. i’m thinking late Fellini is a good place to begin but what other filmmakers have channelled that particular legacy?
Good topic. Kenneth Anger and Ken Russell come to mind, even if they were working on the cheap-film margins, they had an eye for filling the frame with glitz and color and richness and so on. Musicals in general seem to be a good area to search for this.
Performance, Salo, L’Age d’Or, …
interesting selections, but those all seem to channel one aspect of decadence – the sensual side – but are antithetical to another part of the fin-de-siècle sensibility in that the above films celebrate, rather than despise, vulgarity. there’s no worship of the refined or frivolous, no ultra-aestheticism in Franco or Russell, and it’s that legacy in particular that remains elusive. thoughts?
I never much thought about the specific sensibility of decadence. I guess Visconti is usually held up as an example. Though I haven’t seen most of his films. Hard to think of other filmmakers. The sticking point is that despising of vulglarity. Would Antonioni also be a decadent filmmaker? Hmm. Awful lot of Italians nominated for the title.
the Quay Brothers might fit the bill, see Streets of Crocodiles, or some of Derek Jarman’s films.
Hrm, starting with my own response we seem to be increasingly removing ourselves from “decadence” toward, maybe, “elaboration,” or possibly “Baroque.” Sets filled. Decadence is about riches and pleasures piled up to a sickly point, vices and sin. So now we have to do the whole, which filmmakers are making films about decadence, vs which filmmakers are decadent. Derek Jarman, for instance, takes on decadence in Sebastiane, and the film itself is a little decadent. Quay Brothers I don’t think are decadent at all, they’re more Gothic. L’Age d’Or subverts decadence with surrealism and Performance makes me wonder what the difference is between decadence and psychedelia (Oh, the 70s….). Fellini is a really good place to start, as VYR said, but Antonioni’s work seems to mostly show how unpleasurable and barren decadence is.
I guess it would be easier to look at big budget films since some of them are just filled with glitz and glam as a matter of consumerist point, but you could also look toward Italian red phone films, early era epics including DW Griffith’s Intolerance, some Nazi propaganda and other films that seek to showcase the vast riches of a nation or people.
That’s a fair point Polaris, I wouldn’t disagree, the Quay Brothers are kind of gothic, It is all rather dandy.
Italian silent cinema definitely. Tigre Reale by Giovanni Pastrone (which can be seen on Youtube, by the way) embodied the aesthetics of languor, possibly because it was made so close to the turn-of-the-century.
Nino Oxilia’s Blue Blood and Satan’s Rhapsody also seem like perfect fits, but I’ve not been able to obtain a copy of either of them online or elsewhere.
i think often psychedelic films are decadent – i’m thinking of Varda’s Lions Love, 1968, and the later 80s film Liquid Sky. there’s something very decadent about a cultural and aesthetic fringe-group blown to its extreme.
Both are movements that are the essence of decadence.
Irish decadence shouldn’t be overlooked either, I haven’t seen Midnight In Paris but i’d guess that George Moore’s Confessions of a Young Man would have been an influence.
Huh, i don’t think of Rimbaud or Baudelaire as despising vulgarity. That is a very conservative interpreation of early modernism i’d say. They definately affirm vulgarity, sexuality, transience, movement – time itself. Glauber Rocha could be an equivalent of Rimbaud. Vlacil is very decadent – Marketa Lazarova. Andrei Tarkovsky is decadent, though i’d say he’s more likely to be compared to later modernism, e.g. that of Marcel Proust. Visconti is already mentioned, he’s a good one. So is Anger, though i’d say he is not in the tradition of early modernism. His level of affirmation, his ability to provoke is comparable to Rimbaud, Whitman, Baudelaire or Knut Hamsun, but he is more in touch with the beat generation of course. Jean Cocteau is also a possible candidate.
Anyway – despising vulgarity? I only see that in Lautreamont who is a bad writer compared to the other symbolists/decadents.
I initially thought Sweet Movie would fit the bill, but, like L’age d’or, seems to critique rather than revel in its feasts (although its division between critique and orgiastic abandon does seem pretty thin).
I’m wondering whether certain films of Viscontis (primarily The Leopard?) would fit the bill, with the rich set design coupled with graceful and flowing camera?