THE MICHIGAN DAILY
Friday, October 15, 1971
Page Ten THE MICHIGAN DAILY Friday, October 1 5, 1971
Visconti: Improper use of aestheticism
(Continued from Page 2)
ordered. Luckily, through the
wonders of modern graphics,
I'm able to show you what I
mean. (How many reviewers are
considerate enough to supply
er hand, is not so much a for-
malist as a Teuton - an artis-
tic soldier girding for battle
against the sentimental sensa-
tionalist hordes. When he blurts,
"Creation is a spiritual act," he
is boasting personal discipline in
defiance of his senses. And
when his shrill comrade, Al-
fred, retorts petulantly, "No!
Beauty belongs to the senses,"
he is being more of an artistic
anarchist than a true aesthete.
So, like Emil Jannings in The
Blue Angel, when Aschenbach
finally m does succumb to ideal
beauty as embodied by the youth
Tadzio, he is breaking with
his past rather than living out
his tragic destiny: punctilious-
ness once again loses out to
Moreover, Visconti seems to
pump up one of the book's sub-
themes to major status by
stressing Aschenbach's sene-
scence. The artist, in fact, is a
walking symbol of the impo-
tence, both creative and sexual,
that accompanies old age. With
his powers ebbing away despite
pitiful attempts at regenera-
tion, Aschenbach soon becomes
his own degradation. "There is
no impurity so impure as old
age," says his verbal sparring
partner. Aschenbach knows, be-
cause he's nearing the abyss.
Perhaps that's why the
film's protagonist seems so
weak, so incapable of ever hav-
ing produced great art. Ordi-
narily an exceptionally well-
modulated actor, Dirk Bogarde
here is a limpid, fussy, pouting
old fag, who wrings his hands,
pats his mouth, purses his lips,
rolls his eyes and swallows em-
barrassingly as if about to
be caught in the act of ogling
the young boy. Bogarde does
have his moments, notably the
death scene, but all things con-
sidered, his is a very menstrual
And Bjorn Andresen does no
better by Tadzio. Although An-
dresen's long blond curls and
girlish features make him ac-
ceptably bisexual, he is by no
means the package of inno-
cence, charm and grace that
captures the heart of the book's
Aschenbach. He is more like Lo-
lita, flaring his nostrils, dang-
ling his wrists, planting his
arms on his waist, and casting
furtive glances at his admirer.
If that sounds disgusting, it is.
Of course, faithfulness in and
of itself is no great virture for.
an adapter, and I couldn't cas-
tigate Visconti for reinterpret-
ing Mann, if only he had some-
thing to add. Certainly he has
been faithful to Mann's word
pictures and narrative, but the
ideas have gotten lost in the
shuffle, and he's wound up cre-
ating prettified drivel: a story
of gay Platonism with a few
idiotic essays thrown in via
Every Friday-6 P.M.
flashback (the worst scenes
you're likely to see this year)
to satisfy old-time cineastes.
The symbolism is foolishly
transparent - an hour-glass
which sparks a discourse on the
sands of time; a dye-job which
becomes, ironically, a death-
mask; an atonal chord signify-
ing Aschenbach's fall from or-
der; a plague sweeping the city.
And yet even though Visconti
comes off as either a fool, a per-
vert, or both, you can't help but
feel a certain sympathy for him.
Like Aschenbach, he is trapped
in an aesthetic double-bind. His
film is about the excesses of a
search for beauty; but as a good
art director (which is how
Visconti rose to the directors'
ranks) who seems uncomfort-
able with ideas, his film is an
excess itself, Put simply, Vis-
conti's obsession with Beauty
vitiates any of Venice's themes,
and in the end all we're given
is form with some pretension to
substance. Aestheticism tri-
umphs, and we're out two bucks.
You just can't win... . . . .
For the student body:
The U of M Folklore Society
Crisler Arena 8:30 pm.
$2-ALL SEATS RESERVED
Tickets on sale beginning October 18 from 10 a.m. 'til 6 p.m.
Michigan Union-Ann Arbor Folklore Center (516 E. William)
State Street at Liberty
You might be able to see that
Mann's Aschenbach is a clas-
sically tragic figure whose de-
cline is the overblown extension
of his search for perfection. Vis-
conti's Aschenbach, on the oth-
An erotic mystery, a
phantasmagorical film by
Nagisa Oshima, "Japan's
esthetically and political-
ly most radical film
Diary of a
in the JAPEN festival
ARM/Michigan Film Society
at Natural Science Aud.
FOLLOW SMOKEY'S RULES
Read and Use
Face the facts honestly and openly
COME and HEAR
Dr. John C. Whitcomb
Friday, 7:30 p.m. "The Creation
of the World"
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. "Genesis and
(Y FOR THREE. THE FOURTH ONE FREE!