A city of life and death at once, and if the truth/beauty/whatever of human existence is the coexistence of the two, then Visconti deserves credit for making a dirge so beauteous. He also deserves credit for real filmmaking, the kind where it's easy to watch even though "nothing is happening"—especially when "nothing" has a tinge of paranoia. Shy of a masterpiece, and it badly wants to be one. But I'll tip my hat.
I haven't been to Venice. It seemed a bit too risky. My brother and his wife went and they came back safe, but if you watch this movie and 'Comfort of Strangers' and 'Don't Look Now', you will see how deadly Venice really is. The most interesting aspect is how the description of the film varies from 'young man' and 'boy' or 'adolescent boy' depending on whether the reviewer considers it pedophilia or not.
7/10. A slight (and occasionally creepy) melodrama is elevated by Visconti's sumptuous visual style. The production design is characteristically impeccable, and the visual compositions resemble masterful paintings. Visconti choreographs crowds to great effect, populating his shots with color and movement. Still, the central "romance" at the heart of the film is both a trifle ambiguous and somewhat off-putting.
Désirs inavouables, travestis sous le masque protecteur de l'esthétisme et de la rigidité morale ambiante; un film difficile qui risque fort de rebuter le spectateur par la volontaire lenteur de son déroulement et l'académisme apparent de sa réalisation... www.cinefiches.com
This film drew me in and evaded me for a few years, I'd find myself starting it and then finding it too slow and strange, only to return to it a few months later, I read the book trying to digest it's meaning and then returned again. My final feeling is that there is some profoundly beautiful ideas swimming about beneath the surface of this flim and it draws me back. But confound that zoom!
The flashbacks come across as contrivances but there is something about Bogarde's performance that kept me glued to the screen in spite of the fact that making things so concrete kind of does a disservice to the brilliance of Mann's rendering of unrequited love, as it occurs soley in the mind of Ashenbach. Visconti gets kudos for even attempting to transkate even partially the tragedy of the story.
It's incredible how many people seem to be convinced that the boy character is a metaphor for the lost youth of the aging man, the embodiment of beauty and perfection that the old composer never managed to find. What a cock'n'bull theory of self-deception! It's Visconti, goddamn it - of course the film is about paedophiliac temptation of an old pathetic creep! The most hateful character in cinematic history, surely.
Though perhaps a bit too ambiguous for it's own good, I disagree with a solely homosexual reading of this film. To my eyes, the boy was less a stand in for what the main character wanted and more for what he had lost, namely his youth and purety. Overall, I got more than a little bit of a VERTIGO vibe from this.
Thomas Mann's endlessly noxious, guilt-ridden melodrama – already an anachronism in 1910 –, brought to the big screen by the most spineless of film directors, who went on to blame homosexuals for Nazism. Insufferable kitsch, responsible for the occurence of Derek Jarman.