Tag Archives: Film Stars

A thought on Burt Lancaster ageing

 

Reflecting this morning that one of the interesting things about watching Burt Lancaster film in chronological order is that you see him age before your eyes, in an accelerated fashion, day by day. And one mourns and admires in equal measure. One mourns the loss of beauty –that little aquiline tilt of the nose that in some angles transformed him from handsome to beautiful, snipped by the surgeon sometime in the early sixties. Seeing his face day after day one notices the oncoming liver spots, the increasing scars, the hair thinning, dyed, then left white, the heroic attempts to stay fit even as the body expands before finally sagging like everyone else’s. One also notices, the increase in skill, the risks, the intelligence of the choices, the struggle to stay relevant, to comment on current conditions, sometimes with worse directors in central roles, with better ones in key small roles, in material that is risky and pertinent, and being in such works becomes more important than the role offered. He dies young and heroically early on and then in the later films the death scenes take on another meaning, hit closer to home, offer moments of a different type of reflection. His audience, for he did have one, huge early on, smaller later, must have reflected on his ageing in relation to their own. It’s one of the functions of stardom. Like with great beauties, or action stars, stars for whom the physique was central to their value as commodities and in relation to meaning, the gradual loss of what others valued, what constituted their value, and the attempt to alchemise it into another type of value, to offer something else, seems moving and heroic.

José Arroyo

Marlene Dietrich: Twilight of an Angel (Dominique Leeb, France, 20013)

marlene dietrich

 

 

Marlene Dietrich: It’s her legs that made her fortune; her face that became an indelible and iconic image of cinema, of glamour and even of modernity; but it is in her voice we find the full range of her personality. The Twilight of an Angel offers fascinating insights into  how Dietrich lived in her last years, how bullying and needy and vulnerable and romantic she was. How she dared to be herself, still.

The film — more a one hour documentary made for television — contains interviews with the sharp-voiced and certain Maria Riva, Marlene’s much-loved daughter, as well as rare and revealing sound footage of Dietrich speaking to her butler or assistant — seemingly a lovely gay man — who evidently took care of her in her last days. Twilight of an Angel ends emotionally with her funeral in Berlin. The last song, ‘I’m Leaving a Suitcase in Berlin/ Einen Koffer in Berlin,’ is just beautiful.

 

José Arroyo