Roz Kaveney (rozk) wrote,
Roz Kaveney


I went to see Venus yesterday afternoon with paratti and it has left me in a vague funk about life, ageing and sexuality.

In case you don't know, it is a movie about how a dying actor whose once gorgeous body is falling apart on him from old age falls for the dim chav great-niece of one of his oldest friends. He is out for a last contact with firm young flesh; she is out for whatever she can get from him while not giving him anything she regards as important. Yet along the way, we see
that he is not just a sleazy old man who has never made sense of his relationships, because he makes his peace with his wife and he even gives the unacknowledged love for him of his friend some sort of acknowledgement by dancing with him (to the Dvorak Slavonic Dance no. 10 which becomes most of the soundtrack for the later stages of the movie.) And he loves pleasure and he loves beauty and art and his love for the girl is not just about groping, though it is about that as well.

She starts off loathsome and selfish and philistine and is largely responsible for his death - her boyfriend attacks him and he has a stroke from which he does not recover. In the process, she learns compassion and realizes that, in some sense, she is in love with this sleazy old man. He recites a Shakespeare sonnet to her, and it moves her; he takes her on a shoot, and she realizes that acting is hard; she goes with him to Whistable on his last journey back to where he was born, when he should be going into hospital, and is with him when he dies. She makes her peace with her greatuncle and she is given absolution by the actor's long-suffering ex-wife. He has genuinely changed her - he showed her the Rokeby Venus and in the last seconds of the movie, working as a life model, that is what she more or less becomes. She is an ordinary real person, but she is transfigured by what might have been just sleazy and shabby.

This is about the transfiguring power of art, and the foul rag and bone shop out of which it grows - it is a very Yeatsian film in that way. And there is this sadness to it - we don't value the bodies of the old, even when, as in the case of O'Toole and Vanessa Redgrave as the wife, they are still beautiful, just in a different way. The film dwells on every crack and crevice but I still think O'Toole one of the most gorgeous things I ever saw, and the wreck of great beauty is still beauty.

And yet, there is the sleaziness. I am now approaching sixty and I am attracted to people my own age or older, but I am also attracted to people significantly younger than myself. I would never do some of the stuff Maurice does in this movie, yet I feel tacky even thinking sexually about women in their early thirties who admire my brain and hang out with me for my wit. I love them for their brains and wit, and I am more or less monogamous anyway, and yet I feel sleazy sometimes. No-one is entirely old in their heads, is part of what this movie reminds us, and that has consequences that are complex.
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