Saturday, December 31, 2005

There's just something innately wrong about Dirk Bogarde in a Sexual role.

Last night I watched (for the first time - I suddenly realize I am not really giving myself great credibility with not having seen both this and Mommie Dearest until only recently. But really, I have seen more films than any reasonable person) the erotic classic The Night Porter. I must say, though, I was rather underwhelmed. The first hour of the film is quite masterful. Every subtle moment of status that is worked into the first half of the film subjugates Dirk Bogarde's Max, stripping him of all dignity until he is little more than a manservant - at times even a mere piece of meat. This is done in slight gestures, so small I cannot recall them now, but they seemed enormous when watching.

As is usual with Bogarde, there is an unusual amount of homosexual subtext. Sadly the connotations they make are all with dredges of society - Gigolos and Nazis. It is more a perverted sense of fraternity, really. And perversion is a good word for the film as a whole. And I say this with no ill intent. For the entire thesis of the film rests on how one adapts to their circumstances and how that adaptation might pervert traditional forms of sexuality. Do not be fooled, The Night Porters idea of sexuality is not progressive by any means. It is strictly a masculine heterosexual world, with perhaps the exception of class, as there are moments where Rampling overpowers the Max character. But since this traditional view of the sexual power structure is in tact, the second half of the film succumbs to the faltering of its sensational intent.

The film takes its visual cues (at least at wonderful moments of stylistic punctuation)from the likes of Ken Russell and his set decorator, Derek Jarman who, though he had not made a feature by the time The Night Porter was made, obviously made an impact from designing the look Russell's The Devils (a film I could not recomend more) and Savage Messiah. But unlike the films of Ken Russell, the subject matter does not quite give itself over entirely to the aesthetic of these moments, and this is the factor that makes Russell's films work so well. With the plot sidetracked, the film allows itself to revel in its ecstatic aesthetic. The Night Porter holds its subject matter too pertinent to allow for such rapturous occasions, yet still attempts to echo the better moments of Russell. It is a move that does not work within the greater context of the film, and the later half (with the exception of the infamous scene shown above) is quite dull to sit through. One can always watch Rampling though. And it would have been easy to assume that she might have trudged forth to create a career not unlike her contemporary Isabelle Huppert, but a few too many safe career decisions killed that idea. Now one can marvel at her brave performances in this and Visconti's The Damned and watch her more iconic performances in her work with France's no-longer-enfant-terrible, Francois Ozon.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more about all of it.

10:32 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home