Sundance Critic’s Notebook 2021 (1): The Most Beautiful Boy in the World, Flee
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Luchino Visconti and Björn Andrésen, as shown in The Most Beautiful Boy in the World

"We're sad to miss you on Park City Mountain this year and look forward to the day we can meet again under one roof," read the HBO Docs email leading to this year's Sundance. "Until then, we recommend that you spend a lot of time in front of your screen watching documentaries." This is admirably direct and succinct, if bleak, and therefore an appropriate welcome to Sundance 2021; Those who have been physically there in recent years can stroll down Virtual Main Street and experience brand overexposure again. You can immerse yourself in "Bring (Chase) Sapphire on Main Home" or in the space from new sponsor White Claw, Sundance's official hard seltzer. According to this press release and the beverage's chief marketing officer, John Shea, White Claw, a “brand rooted in culture and innovation, is excited to support the Sundance Film Festival and the participating creators” with initiatives such as a video titled “ Creating Mental Space to Evolve ”. ("Creators come in all forms. Join Salted Spirit Podcast host, Stacie Vanags, as she shares her experience building a community committed to the wellness and mental health of water women" (her name for surfers)) . In some ways, I really feel like I'm back in Park City for another round – but as fun as it is to get involved with brands, it's probably best to get to work yourself.

The 2015 documentary film Helmut Burger, actor, has embedded itself in Luchino Visconti's dirty apartment. The prompt may have been supposedly connected to high culture, but the result was indecently convincing, which enabled Berger to scold and (sorry) masturbate with him over the unedited, late-night-drunk voicemail track for how they say to masturbate with (?) Director Andreas Horvath. John Waters came up with the idea of ​​the Camp Trash and called it the best film of 2015; Berger finally filed a lawsuit. A companion piece in the sub-genre "Visconti changed my life and I never got over it", Kristina Lindstom and Kristian Petri are far more respectable The most beautiful boy in the world The title comes from the 1971 Cannes press conference about the death in Venice, at which the director gave this description to his tadzio, Björn Andrésen. The opening relies heavily on a TV documentary that I didn't know existed. Visconti pursues this half hour in search of perfect youthful beauty – which he clearly defines as belonging to the Greco-Nordic Empire – in Munich, Stockholm, Helsinki, Budapest and Warsaw. Visconti is welcomed into classrooms, where he searches the hallways for teenage boys without a trace of embarrassment. It's hard to imagine that his definition of "perfect beauty" or the casting methods are now flying. The footage is as fascinating as it is boneless and culminates when Andrésen walks through the door. The director's face lights up and he quickly asks Andrésen to undress. Then photos are taken of his entire body. *

It's been 20 years since I've seen Death in Venice, but apparently it left an even bigger mark than I realized – I remembered every single shot that was included here. (Most Beautiful Boy conforms to Death's widescreen aspect ratio and cleverly avoids putting it in the frame. When I'm done Sundance, Visconti's film is the first thing I watch again.) While Andrésen's Wiki in the first 40 minutes of Boy covering everything, I would never have read it (and would never have come across the television document without this movie, fair enough). Everything was new to me, as was Andrésen's later life after pop culture: the first “western pop idol” to visit Japan, screaming Beatlemania and everything when his then novel look later inspired a generation of manga artists. One, the rose by Versailles artist Riyoko Ikeda, shows his (extremely visible) influence on her work. The front half of the boy unpacks Andrésen's most famous years, but brings the archive goods with her – stills of Andrésen that look miserable on Japanese photo shoots and on the set of Death in Venice of Andrésen's grandmother. It's mostly an extraordinary exception between takes, but still fascinating, and there's a real coup at the end – one of the film's most famous takes (although every single one seems increasingly iconic to me), Tadzio cycling on the beach, match- Cuts A previously unseen angle from grandma's point of view.

There are a number of other bad editorial ideas, however, mostly silly juxtapositions too literal to be used as a metaphor. One of Andrésen's Japanese admirers describes a moment in the teenage years when beauty blooms briefly and cherry blossoms are cut, which are both Japanese and ephemeral. Andrésen remembers falling into his own pit of depression and self-doubt, how his fall on the cliff by Midsommar et al. Opening shots of today's Andrésen, wearing a leather jacket as he wanders down deserted, rundown hallways in slow motion, play like someone trying to imitate David Fincher making a Metallica video. But today's mode is otherwise largely naturalistic; After this intro, Andrésen, like Berger, is next seen in his dirty apartment – but actually cleans it up when his girlfriend tells him (and after his landlord threatens to evict him). Like many of the documentaries on Sundance, Most Beautiful Boy shows the admirable approach to a rigorously ironed out plot: Andrésen is presented at a "relative low", tells his story, takes up his past and more or less brings it together (his trajectory spelled) In the parallel plot in which he has a girlfriend who briefly threatens to break up with him, they are together again – romance as a passage). Ultimately, the film doesn't accuse Visconti (against whom the actor has voiced his complaints many times), but Andrésen's angry showbiz grandmother: he just wanted to be a classical pianist, but was pushed to become a child star.

Most Beautiful Boy eventually goes beyond the Wikipedia basics retold in the first person to shed some news as Andrésen, long haunted by his mother's disappearance as a child and the subsequent discovery of her body in the woods, finally Track down police records. from a Swedish office where all relevant documents are kept. The officer who takes on Werner Herzog in the role of Grizzly Man warns that he may not want to look – Andrésen does it anyway. Much more than Berger, Andrésen seems to be camera-ready and ready to play "himself" as a sad man in order to get to the bottom of his childhood trauma. If Horvath's film seemed to indulge in its tabloid realism a little too much for my taste, this is going in a different, but equally annoying direction, smoothing a rocky life into cleanly identifiable stress turning points. This does not make the leap from the "DVD supplement" to its own film object, but anyone curious for Visconti reasons will likely find something valuable from it.

20 years before Waking Life and a decade after Waltz with Bashir, there is no novelty in the idea of ​​dark adult animation that is definitely not in Ralph Bakshi's pocket. Jonas Poher Rasmussens Flee There are several reasons to tell the story of the pseudonymous Afghan refugee / Danish resident Amir Nawabi in an animated form: It helps to discreetly anonymize those in need of protection, to create large-scale recordings and to restore lost worlds (Afghanistan in the 80s, early) & # 39; 90s Moscow), which would otherwise be the realm of the talking heads + archive. The most compelling argument, however, is implicitly made by Nawabi, whose story is indeed harrowing. Nawabi recalls a moment when his refugee ship, lost at sea and stranded for two days, was finally discovered by a cruise ship. He remembers not being able to share in the excitement of his fellow refugees: being photographed and videotaped by passengers staring from the deck went below deck and filled him with shame. The situation did not improve either when Nawabi et al. were transferred to a dirty building in Estonia, where they were held for six months. Rasmussen relies on archival material taken from visiting journalists, but Nawabi says, "They got their material from poor refugees" and went home. So this is an opportunity to tell your story, which is both very specific and symbolic of a broader experience often made in generic, abusive, and exploitative ways of poverty porn, on your own visual terms. (Given that it's disappointing that executive producers Riz Ahmed and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, no doubt with the best of intentions, are going to cast their votes for an upcoming English dub that seems like a retrograde step – the linguistic specificity of this story is absolutely crucial and should be respected.)

The escape starts badly when Nawabi tells his childhood story – recordings of corpses on the streets of Kabul seem of course traumatic, but the composer Uno Helmersson ensures that they are conveyed with the help of a sad violin solo supported by more strings . The animation is made up of several styles, neither of which actually did it for me: opening memories are rendered in black and white charcoal, while other parts are reminiscent of Miyazaki. (Animators Sun Creature Studio previously ran a faux Miyazaki-style tourism campaign in Oregon, so this makes sense.) But the meat of flee is a very specific refugee story that includes the family who flees to Russia, the only one Country that would give you a tourist visa and then, classic immigration style, nothing but sit and watch TV (Mexican telenovelas dubbed in Russian) so that you can learn the language of your temporary country while you wait for something to happen . Estonia, Ukraine, Istanbul, Copenhagen: Navabi's journey was long and painful, and the story was told without much gilding of the pathos lily. Flee is either gifted with a budget large enough to license a-ha, Roxette, and Daft Punk, or with some very generous clearances. He uses his resources wisely – far worse films have received rave Sundance opening raves.

* It's parked entirely on YouTube – no English subtitles, but you'll likely get the idea

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