Friday, November 13, 2009

Valentino and celebrity culture

"Valentino" was a movie directed by notorious British director Ken Russell. During his heyday in the 1970's he specialized in creating over the top biography movies. Most of them were critically panned, but none as much as his Rudolph Valentino biography. Critics pointed out that most of what appears onscreen never happened. They stressed how awful Rudolph Nureyev was in the title role.

But watching it last night on TCM, I agree on those points. But I guess Russell was making more of a statement on celebrity culture. After all, Valentino was the first cinema idol, he was cinema's first true star. IN a way he was the first mass media rock n' roll type star.

And I love how Russell builds his movie around Valentino's funeral. During the funeral, several people who knew him make grand statements about him and how he influenced his or her life. They are all exaggerating his influence, some of them telling obvious lies. But that is the beauty of the movie. It reminded me so much of the Michael Jackson funeral where hangers on and people who I'm sure couldn't care less about him were making grandiose statements about how Jackson touched their lives.

Russell created a biography based on lies because most celebrities lives and biographies are built on lies. This is not a terrible movie. Actually, it's quite brilliant. And I loved Leslie Caron as a horny lesbian. Only Ken Russell could have done such casting.

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