The Most Beautiful Boy in the World
This melancholic and quietly devastating documentary charts the experiences of Björn Andrésen, the fifteen-year-old Swedish boy thrust into the limelight to play Tadzio, Dirk Bogarde’s object of desire in Luchino Visconti’s 1971 Thomas Mann adaptation ‘Death in Venice’.
Uncomfortable Super 8 footage shows how the shy Andrésen, reluctantly pushed into attending the audition by his grandmother, was blithely instructed by homosexual director Visconti to strip, turn around and smile. When he was cast, the crew, mainly consisting of gay men, were told by the director to keep their hands off him during filming. The picture debuted in Cannes where Visconti coined the ‘most beautiful boy’ title while telling the attendant press that Andrésen , now sixteen, was at an ‘awkward age’.
In present day, Andrésen, now in his fifties and unrecognizable with his long grey hair and beard, recalls how with an alarming absence of parental or any apparent family guidance, he was subsequently passed around ‘like a trophy’, spending a year living in France as, apparently, the plaything of rich gay men. He also spent some a good deal of time in Japan where he became a successful recording artist and, sporting his Tadzio sailor suit, a hugely popular muse for manga artists.
The juggling chronology imbues the film with a meandering quality and the directors’ decision to avoid sensationalism and any deep probing of its subject means Andrésen remains unknowable. Scenes of Andrésen revisiting the Hotel de Bains where ‘Death in Venice’ was filmed are beautifully rendered in spectral dark blue shades, while the theme of youthful exploitation remains all too relevant.
The Most Beautiful Boy in the World is released 30th July
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