“The most beautiful boy in the world” review – The Hollywood Reporter


Lest you think the title of this documentary is hyperbole, rest assured that the nickname “The World’s Most Beautiful Boy” has been applied once to the subject of the film. This is Björn Andrésen, who at the age of 15 was selected by legendary Italian director Luchino Visconti to play the adolescent object of Dirk Bogarde’s obsession in Thomas Mann’s 1971 film adaptation. Dead in Venice. After causing a worldwide sensation in his first major film role, Andrésen spent the rest of his life in relative obscurity. Kristina Lindstrom and Kristian Petri’s compelling, albeit diffuse, documentary fills that sizable void in her public profile while clearly showing the lingering emotional impact of Andresen’s contact with stardom.

Those who remember Andrésen as the incredibly gorgeous, curly-haired Pre-Raphaelite figure of the classic Visconti will be shocked when they meet him again for the first time. Now in his sixties (the film was shot over a five-year span), he is skinny and stunted, smoking incessantly and sporting a shaggy white Gandalf beard. He risks being evicted from his dilapidated apartment because of his unsanitary living conditions and his dangerous habit of accidentally leaving his gas burner on. “My house is a danger to the environment,” he admits to his long-suffering girlfriend.

The most beautiful boy in the world

The bottom line

A haunting portrait of the price of fame.

Release date: Friday September 24.

Directors: Kristina Lindstrom, Kristian Petri

1 hour 34 minutes

Flashbacks detail Visconti’s international search for the perfect teenager to play Tadzio’s pivotal role in his film. When he met Andrésen in Sweden, he knew immediately that he had found his “bull’s eye”, as he puts it. The documentary includes footage of Andresen’s audition, during which he appears deeply uncomfortable when Visconti asks him to bar his chest.

Like all those who have seen Death in Venice knows, the unknown Andrésen made an indelible impression in the film; the camera clearly adored him. Visconti ordered that no one on his largely gay team watch the young actor, and his direction of Andresen consisted essentially of four commands: go, stop, turn around, and smile. At a press conference at the premiere of the film, the director jokingly comments that his young star is already on the verge of losing his appearance.

Although he enjoyed the experience of working abroad, Andrésen was ambivalent about acting. He was pushed to audition for roles by his ambitious grandmother, who was thrilled when Visconti rewarded her with a small role in the film.

Behind the scenes images of Death in Venice turns out to be the most fascinating segment of the documentary, which provides an impressionistic portrayal of Andresen’s life over the following years. For a brief time he was able to profit from her fame, becoming a teenage song idol in Japan and inspiring a generation of manga artists; he was the model of the character of Lady Oscar in the long series The Rose of Versailles. He also spent time in Paris, receiving “pocket money,” as he puts it, from older men who desired his company. His most notable film appearance since his breakout role was a small role in Ari Aster’s horror film in 2019. Environment, in which his character had a particularly gruesome ending.

Andresen’s emotional state over the years has been fragile at best. “Everything has gone well for my career,” he says. “But that didn’t help me with my inner darkness.” The filmmakers tease dramatic revelations throughout the film, like the fact that his mother disappeared when he was a little boy, only to be later found dead in a remote wooded area. We see Andrésen tearfully reading a police report on the event, but no further details are provided. Her deepest tragedy was the loss of her infant son; the official cause of death was sudden infant death syndrome, but Andrésen, who was sleeping in the bed next to the baby when it happened, blames himself. Subsequently, he sank into a long period of depression and alcoholism, from which he does not seem to have fully emerged.

The most beautiful boy in the world provides a haunting portrayal of the corrosive effects of fame, especially the sexualized variety, at an early age. But there are times the film feels like it is exploiting its subject matter in its own right, especially when listening to episodes as intensely personal as a phone conversation in which his girlfriend angrily lashes out at him. As we watch the ever-striking Andrésen gaze into the distance as he revisits the places in Venice where he worked as a child, it is evident that he poses for the camera, and we uncomfortably remember our own bond with the culture. toxic celebrity.

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