962 Death in Venice

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ellipsis7
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962 Death in Venice

#1 Post by ellipsis7 » Fri Jul 13, 2018 2:02 pm

Announced today for La Biennale di Cinema 2018, a new restoration in the Venezia Classici section...
MORTE A VENEZIA (DEATH IN VENICE)
by LUCHINO VISCONTI (Italy, France, USA, 1971, 130’, COL.)
restoration: Cineteca di Bologna and Istituto Luce - Cinecittà in collaboration with Warner Bros. and The Criterion Collection
Full lineup of Venezia Classici here...

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domino harvey
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Re: Forthcoming: Death in Venice (Visconti)

#2 Post by domino harvey » Fri Jul 13, 2018 3:40 pm

Saw this for the first time recently and thought it was grotesque and awful. Look no further than the hideous sick joke of Borgarde’s makeover to see how ugly this movie’s attitude is towards its characters, its premise, and its audience. Then again, as I near having seeing all of Visconti's films, I'm becoming increasingly convinced that he's a mediocre-to-lousy director who lucked into making a few great films in the late 50s/early 60s (Rocco, La notti bianche, Boccaccio '70), so this was unlikely to ever change my mind...

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knives
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Re: Forthcoming: Death in Venice (Visconti)

#3 Post by knives » Fri Jul 13, 2018 3:56 pm

I'm basically in your camp (though I like like La terra trema and most of The Damned as well) and have to say that in particular this late era Visconti is awful. He really develops this bizarre self loathing streak (at its nadir here) that I just have no patience for.

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Re: Forthcoming: Death in Venice (Visconti)

#4 Post by Robespierre » Fri Jul 13, 2018 4:41 pm

So glad I'm not the only one who loathed this film. It's opulent and self-indulgent in all of the worst ways. I also adore Rocco and Notti Bianche.

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Re: Forthcoming: Death in Venice (Visconti)

#5 Post by Werewolf by Night » Fri Jul 13, 2018 7:07 pm

Geez, it’s not Visconti’s best film, but it also didn’t murder your puppy. Calm down, everybody.

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domino harvey
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Re: Forthcoming: Death in Venice (Visconti)

#6 Post by domino harvey » Fri Jul 13, 2018 7:40 pm

Puppy Heaven > Hell of watching this movie

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Re: Forthcoming: Death in Venice (Visconti)

#7 Post by Rayon Vert » Fri Jul 13, 2018 7:42 pm

This is a favorite of mine. My quite opposite take: Visconti beautifully illustrates the ideas at play in Mann’s novella, namely a protagonist identifying beauty with the otherwordly, sensitive to ugliness (he keeps stumbling upon the grotesqueness of vulgar reality in many forms) and confronted, leading to his own death, with the “daemonic”, ambiguous dimension of art and beauty in this earth through the senses as incarnated in the vision of an effeminate/androgynous-looking adolescent between childhood and manhood, male and female. What might not get noticed as much as how these themes evoke Plato’s notion of the Beautiful, as it reaches through the senses – made most manifest in those scenes of Tadzio where the heavens meet the earth (the sea, the sand) –, and in this notion of a demiurge, albeit translated into modernist, 20th century ideas. An incredibly languorous film, if it feels at times bordering on the precious and ethereal itself, it itself strives for aesthetic perfection and presents us with sensuous beauty in its frequently incredibly beautiful cinematography, especially in the beach scenes, with decor and costumes that rival The Leopard for sheer gorgeousness, and awash in the transcendent music of Mahler.

(I once had a professor discuss the Plato-insights related to Death in Venice, the novella, that he said had came to him as a result of seeing the film, by chance, which I had already seen and was quick to agree with. Seems other people have noticed this as well. It's hard not to think that Visconti wasn't aware and ready to exploit the theme.)

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Re: Forthcoming: Death in Venice (Visconti)

#8 Post by david hare » Fri Jul 13, 2018 8:23 pm

Worst film ever made by a reputable director. No second worst, there 's then everything else V made after this. If for no other reason (and there are many) I loathe the picture as it's the apotheosis of some confected internalized homophobia, this coming from someone who was so fucking wealthy and influential he could buy and sell anything he wanted in life including his leading men. Playing to the crowd, except in this case it's the self hating queens (whom he perceived as his key audience) being given enough sentinmental, middelbrow faux arthouse slop to weep into their fucking Kleenexes for the next six months. Total dreck.

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Re: Forthcoming: Death in Venice (Visconti)

#9 Post by John Cope » Fri Jul 13, 2018 8:44 pm

Love late period Visconti, and this one especially. But of course I even love Conversation Piece.

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Re: Forthcoming: Death in Venice (Visconti)

#10 Post by david hare » Sat Jul 14, 2018 2:00 am

I love you John Cope. Someone has to be there for it or I wouldn't bother.

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Re: Forthcoming: Death in Venice (Visconti)

#11 Post by Lost Highway » Sat Jul 14, 2018 3:23 am

david hare wrote:
Fri Jul 13, 2018 8:23 pm
Worst film ever made by a reputable director. No second worst, there 's then everything else V made after this. If for no other reason (and there are many) I loathe the picture as it's the apotheosis of some confected internalized homophobia, this coming from someone who was so fucking wealthy and influential he could buy and sell anything he wanted in life including his leading men. Playing to the crowd, except in this case it's the self hating queens (whom he perceived as his key audience) being given enough sentinmental, middelbrow faux arthouse slop to weep into their fucking Kleenexes for the next six months. Total dreck.
Well said. I watched the movie in my late teens while I was coming to terms with my sexuality and I’ve loathed it ever since.

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Re: Forthcoming: Death in Venice (Visconti)

#12 Post by ellipsis7 » Sat Jul 14, 2018 5:20 am

At the time of the original release, the music of Mahler which is featured in the film, in particular the "Adagietto" from his 5th Symphony leapt to huge popularity on the back of the outing... I've read criticism since of the quality of the performances, but a new BR release will at least correct the disastrous pitch change inherent with PAL speedup on the previous DVD releases in these parts (not as bad in NTSC Stateside I'm guessing)...

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Re: Forthcoming: Death in Venice (Visconti)

#13 Post by R0lf » Sat Jul 14, 2018 7:55 am

Personally I love late Visconti because it's full of forty-five minute dinner scenes, side eye, and hat acting.

Ingrid Thulin doing a three-sixty to show off her bonnet during an exposition scene gives me the same rare thrill I feel watching Claudette Colbert do a three-sixty to show off the drape of her gown in CLEOPATRA!!

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Re: Forthcoming: Death in Venice (Visconti)

#14 Post by domino harvey » Sat Jul 14, 2018 10:26 am

Everything takes so long in these late-period Viscontis, I think Giancarlo Giannini is still wandering around his estate debating whether to kill that baby even now

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Re: Forthcoming: Death in Venice (Visconti)

#15 Post by SSF » Sat Jul 14, 2018 10:49 am

david hare wrote:
Fri Jul 13, 2018 8:23 pm
Worst film ever made by a reputable director. No second worst, there 's then everything else V made after this. If for no other reason (and there are many) I loathe the picture as it's the apotheosis of some confected internalized homophobia, this coming from someone who was so fucking wealthy and influential he could buy and sell anything he wanted in life including his leading men. Playing to the crowd, except in this case it's the self hating queens (whom he perceived as his key audience) being given enough sentinmental, middelbrow faux arthouse slop to weep into their fucking Kleenexes for the next six months. Total dreck.
Fellow gay man asking. Am I not to have sympathy for those who struggle with internalized homophobia?

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Re: Forthcoming: Death in Venice (Visconti)

#16 Post by Werewolf by Night » Sun Jul 15, 2018 10:19 am

Visconti is CANCELLED for not being LGBTQ-affirming enough in his 1971 major studio film adaptation—which Warner Bros. nearly didn’t release at all out of fear it would be banned for obscenity—of a 1912 book based on its author’s real-life struggles with his sexuality and his disgust at suddenly finding himself physically attracted to his own son, a book that was blasted by critics for introducing the subject of same-sex desire into the mainstream.

Yeah, can’t imagine why there’s a thread of self-loathing in the film.

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domino harvey
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Re: Forthcoming: Death in Venice (Visconti)

#17 Post by domino harvey » Sun Jul 15, 2018 10:30 am

Is your defense of this movie that Thomas Mann wanted to fuck his own son?

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Re: Forthcoming: Death in Venice (Visconti)

#18 Post by Werewolf by Night » Sun Jul 15, 2018 12:50 pm

domino harvey wrote:Is your defense of this movie that Thomas Mann wanted to fuck his own son?
Yes, yes. That’s exactly it. Thank you for clarifying my point.

I’m not defending the movie, I don’t even particularly like it. But not liking it specifically because it’s drenched in self-hatred and internalized homophobia is to miss the point of the film (and book) entirely. One could say that those feelings are the reasons both works exist in the first place. They so possessed their creators that they needed to be expressed (or maybe even expelled, like a demon, if you will). Sometimes art is off-putting and uncomfortable because it’s meant to be, sometimes because it can’t help being so.

To be honest, I think the film misses the mark for me because I don’t think Visconti went far enough with what’s in the book. I think he did something similar but better in Ludwig, which appears to be just as polarizing among the posters here for the same reasons. Hate Death in Venice if you want, but hate it because it’s rather dull and relies too heavily on Mahler to create any momentum, not because it accurately evokes its central themes and isn’t an affirming depiction of homosexual desire.

Anyway, imagine being Visconti and being told that the studio might not release your movie because it’s too “controversial” (i.e. gay)—the same year the same studio releases The Devils, A Clockwork Orange, and Dirty Harry.

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Re: Forthcoming: Death in Venice (Visconti)

#19 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Jul 17, 2018 1:45 am

I don't know. I always thought the film was about the dangerous pursuit of absolute beauty and perfection and the way that it can sometimes lead us to look foolish or do foolish things like pursue the impossible (and unfulfillable, even in simple legal terms!), and often end up looking comically, tragically, parodically absurd in our desperate attempts at dolling ourselves up to be noticed, and eventually put our own very wellbeing on the line as of secondary importance. Is wasting away in the presence of almost graspable but ever illusive perfection, that barely even notices your presence (or barely reacts when it does) worth it for simply the brief pleasure of sharing the same hallowed spaces, if only for a moment?

That is tied up with the whole 'homosexual self loathing' aspect I suppose (as well as a premonition of AIDS, if we want to be similarly crude), but it is hard to believe that this film, as the ultimate combination of imagery and music to create a delirium of someone pursuing the highest, rapturous tragic end and an idea of the beauty and romantic heights that humanity can reach (almost beyond sex, even if driven by sublimated sexual urges) that is really entirely inside their own head (as shown by the various crude, worldly wise characters - that man on the boat at the beginning who immediately sees Bogarde's character for exactly what he is and cannot help laughing at his up tightness is the key one - and the encroaching stench of death surrounding even this decadent hotel) is still powerful to watch.

It is interesting to maybe compare this with Lolita, as both use the central 'pursuit' as a kind of way of satirising the surrounding world. Though that satire is much more barbed in the Kubrick film (I am afraid I have not read the source material for either film), whilst in Death In Venice there feels like a romanticism and sympathy there for the driven artist willing himself into death. Or even just the artistic spectator withering away willingly in front of beautiful imagery.

It is kind of about the Thanatos death drive tied in with the pursuit of artistic perfection, and that in the face of 'real world' versions of the same maybe the artistic drive to obtain and possess, to capture an image in all its glory is never really the same as actually being in the presence of the real thing. If the composer actually met the boy, what then? And would that destroy the image he has created in his mind by replacing the impassive (or perhaps just entirely blank) figure with an inevitably flawed real boy? Similarly when does the composer's almost whimsical maladie, for which he has come to Venice to recover, turn into full blown deadly plague? In the face of the stark, brutal, crudening, image shattering nature of the surrounding world (the big theme of late Visconti, of living at the end of a certain age and mode of being), why not try to reach for the transcendent glories within your own mind's eye?

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Re: Forthcoming: Death in Venice (Visconti)

#20 Post by Mr Sausage » Tue Jul 17, 2018 11:20 am

colinr0380 wrote:I don't know. I always thought the film was about the dangerous pursuit of absolute beauty and perfection and the way that it can sometimes lead us to look foolish or do foolish things like pursue the impossible (and unfulfillable, even in simple legal terms!), and often end up looking comically, tragically, parodically absurd in our desperate attempts at dolling ourselves up to be noticed, and eventually put our own very wellbeing on the line as of secondary importance. Is wasting away in the presence of almost graspable but ever illusive perfection, that barely even notices your presence (or barely reacts when it does) worth it for simply the brief pleasure of sharing the same hallowed spaces, if only for a moment?
In the novella, the reading you give above is precisely how Aschenbach conceives his desire to himself, as desire to behold perfect, classically proportioned beauty and from there engage in productive aesthetic and artistic contemplation. But Thomas Mann was primarily an ironist. He was very much aware that, tho' this is what Aschenbach claimed, the situation and Aschenbach's actions within it are indistinguishable from common sexual lust, and that however the subject frames it, we're still getting an aging and lonely old man following around a half naked boy. Mann was not so banal and clumsy an ironist to make this simply a grotesque man trying to justify his desires with pretentious motives, however. Mann's ironies are creating an ambiguity between what Nietszche (sorry!) called the Apollonian and the Dionysian, the ordered rational search for artistic purity, and the disordered, chaotic pursuit of physical and emotional instincts. So this is simultaneously the story of genuine artistic pursuit and pathetic lust, both eventually tied by Mann to the death drive through that classic Mann conceit of desire producing infection and disease (he returned to that in The Magic Mountain). This is worked up, many think, into an analysis of the competing pursuits of then contemporary Europe, between its high artistic desires and its drive towards the irrational and sensual that would culminate in destruction. It's all very complicated and literary.

The problem with the movie for me has always been: is it even capable of capturing any of this? The arguments between whether the movie is an artist's pursuit of high artistic ideals or a pretentiously filmed story about some dirty old man are seeing only half the point. It should be both. Literature can juggle the two sides a lot more easily than film; it can set a disparity between what's being narrated and how it's being narrated. Without a voice-over, a film has a hard time layering a narrative in that way; it has to alternate moods. VIsconti's film tries the latter, I think, but it doesn't manage it properly, and its methods are clumsy. The film implies the Apollonian through its art house sophistication, its lingering takes and pictorial compositions, but mostly through Mahler's music. It's really Mahler's that carries this mood, which is why it's so omnipresent. As for the Dionysian, the movie creates it through comic grotesquerie, eg. scenes of Ascenbach behaving pathetically, especially in moments of overindulgence and revelry.

So here's the problem: the film doesn't balance those two moods. The Apollonian is not counterbalanced by the Dionysian, it devolves into it. The film moves from Aschenbach in aesthetic appreciation mode on the beach and in the cities to Aschenbach's dissolution in grotesque parties that go on for ages, culminating in him painting himself like an old queen and dying on the beach. It's hard not to get the feeling that the film is being tendentious and moralistic: rather than Mann's ironies and his ambiguity between the two moods, the Apollonian merely degenerates into the Dionysian, which is not so far from a fascist's view of culture. Please don't mistake me for saying either Visconti or his film are fascist. It's more that this kind of tendentious and moralistic conclusion is attractive to fascists precisely because it's both simplistic and looks backward to a purity untroubled by corruption. Mann had the good sense to imply that artistic purity and irrationality aren't easily extricated. Visconti seems to be setting them up as separate steps in a temporal process.

Visconti's film I think sees itself as redemptive rather than tragi-comic. It ends with Aschenbach's pathetic death at the hands of the disease his desire seemed to create, but it also ends by moving away from Aschenbach to observe Tadzio once again, now freed from Ascenbach (if not his gaze), Mahler surging, as Tadzio points offscreen, out to sea. The figure of Appolonian grace, beauty, and purity points off into the distant horizing, ie. towards the grand and unbeheld ineffable before us. It does feel like Visconti sees artistic purity as both persisting and pointing the way out. Art may lead us to corruption if we're not careful, but it offers us our only salvation from corruption and death. In another movie, this conclusion would be beautiful. But in the context of a story that seems to be symbolizing (however inadvertently) the degeneration of art and culture into disease and death, this conclusion is troubling. Art as perfect bodily proportion, as purity, as physical perfection untouched by eros, well, we all know what cultures enshrined that idea. The same ones that attacked so-called degenerate art and sought a return to mythical pasts of reason, order, and purity untroubled by the irrational drives of Freudian theory. Societies that wanted to be untroubled by sex and modernity. So, yeah, Visconti's film seems to repeat ideas in contexts that gives them an ugly edge.

Again, Visconti's film is not fascist nor is he. It's just that I don't think he realizes the context he's built his ideas around and how it inadvertently shadows those ideas with ugly implications with only a modicum of extension. Far from achieving Mann's ironies, with eros and thanatos forming an inescapable undercurrent to aesthetic and artistic goals, Visconti creates a movie where art is in opposition to eros and thanatos, and we are invited to follow artistic perfection away from disease and degeneracy. No thanks. I prefer Mann.

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Re: Forthcoming: Death in Venice (Visconti)

#21 Post by Toby Dammit » Wed Aug 29, 2018 2:26 pm

Cineteca di Bologna did it again.

Just look this video about the restoration and that yellowish colors

https://video.repubblica.it/dossier/ven ... refresh_ce

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Fred Holywell
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Re: Forthcoming: Death in Venice (Visconti)

#22 Post by Fred Holywell » Wed Aug 29, 2018 2:49 pm

Awful! Saw this theatrically back in the '70s, and it definitely did not look like that. Who's making these decisions? Hope Criterion can correct before releasing it.
Last edited by Fred Holywell on Wed Aug 29, 2018 3:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Forthcoming: Death in Venice (Visconti)

#23 Post by Roscoe » Wed Aug 29, 2018 2:55 pm

With this, and with what Nolan's done to 2001, it seems that "dingy" is the new look in releasing classic films.

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Re: Forthcoming: Death in Venice (Visconti)

#24 Post by Toby Dammit » Wed Aug 29, 2018 3:35 pm

Fred Holywell wrote:
Wed Aug 29, 2018 2:49 pm
Awful! Saw this theatrically back in the '70s, and it definitely did not look like that. Who's making these decisions? Hope Criterion can correct before releasing it.
I've read that some pictorial references of Visconti were the paintings of Sorolla and Turner, therefore I have always imagined a more bluish palette, or with summer vibrant colors -especially in the beach scenes.

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Re: Forthcoming: Death in Venice (Visconti)

#25 Post by jsteffe » Wed Aug 29, 2018 8:09 pm

I think that the HD streaming version currently available on Amazon has far more convincing color than the restoration trailer, though there is likely room for improvement.

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