Not just any rabbit. This rabbit: At the end of December 2002 Mister Rabbit drove me out to Sutherland… Mister Rabbit wondered whether I would be writing up our day in Sutherland (and Sans Souci) beyond what I had to say on the day… Mr Rabbit was 20 at the time, and had his say as well:
We passed my father’s old school, which has a great view (“The Catholics know how to buy land”), and the place of N’s early religion, which looked, I thought, not unlike a scout hall. And then an unexpected surprise: N’s childhood home, which he hadn’t been inside since 1952, was completely empty (on account of being ready for auction), and its front door was wide open. We ventured in and had a good look around. N pointed out the many structural changes, including the removal of fireplaces; thankfully, the house itself can’t be knocked down: built in c. 1913, it is heritage. It is, however, being encroached upon by medium density housing, of which there is much in Sutherland these days. But if I had a spare $400,000 in the bank, I’d buy the house tomorrow. N was glowing afterwards, and I was very happy too.
Only $400,000? You would need maybe THREE TIMES that these days, Rabbit!
Anyway, after an absence Rabbit has reappeared on Facebook. He is no longer 20 just as I am now much nearer 80! He is also a very experienced High School English teacher — indeed Head of English somewhere in the Blue Mountains, where he currently lives.
Our latest conversation was conducted via Facebook comments. I had posted a link to the following quite disturbing story in The Guardian, which certainly raises interesting ethical and aesthetic issues.
Björn Andrésen was just 15 when he walked straight into the lion’s den, being cast as Tadzio, the sailor-suited object of desire in Luchino Visconti’s film Death in Venice. Its release in 1971 made him not merely a star but an instant icon – the embodiment of pristine youthful beauty. Sitting alone in Stockholm today at the age of 66, he looks more like Gandalf with his white beard and his gaunt face framed by shoulder-length white locks. His eyes twinkle as alluringly as ever but he’s no pussycat. Asked what he would say to Visconti if he were here now, he doesn’t pause. “Fuck off,” he says.
No one who sees The Most Beautiful Boy in the World, a new documentary about Andrésen’s turbulent and tragic past, will be surprised by that answer. Visconti, he tells me, “didn’t give a fuck” about his feelings. He wasn’t alone in that. “I’ve never seen so many fascists and assholes as there are in film and theatre,” says Andrésen. “Luchino was the sort of cultural predator who would sacrifice anything or anyone for the work.”…
The Rabbit began:
Rabbit: haven’t seen the film but recently listened to the audiobook.
Neil James Whitfield: The book is very good.
Rabbit: It is. Shorter than I had realised too.
Neil James Whitfield: The movie is magnificent too — it is reading what it did to the boy playing Tadzio that gives me pause.
Rabbit: the Polish boy was played by a Swede?
At which point I posted the music from the movie.
Rabbit: well I think I will watch it during this lockdown
Neil James Whitfield: So I am rereading “Death in Venice” right now as it is in my eBook library.
Rabbit: The theme of pestilence seems relevant.
Neil James Whitfield: Parts of the last chapter seem very relevant. Yes, I have finished it now. That final paragraph really is something.
Rabbit: well I just watched the film. It’s quite something. They nailed the casting of Tadzio.
Neil James Whitfield: Yes, I was absolutely speechless when I first saw it — and I hadn’t read the book at that stage. The boy really IS Tadzio, and Dirk Bogarde is very good too. The cinematography, the music, everything — all so good. That’s why that Guardian article really does raise interesting questions.
Rabbit: visually such a beautiful film. [Referring to my comment.] Yes very true. I want to watch the new film about the boy actor and also other films with Bogarde who I don’t know much about.
Neil James Whitfield: Wikipedia as usual is a good intro — Bogarde was in some great films and had a very interesting life. What Wikipedia says about his sexuality is very true.
Rabbit: the film Victim is on YouTube and I’ll start with that.
Not all Facebook time is wasted!
Nor is listening to great music and viewing great movies a waste of time. Thanks, YouTube! Not so long ago we could not have had this pleasure.
NOTE: I am replacing the final video I had earlier as I see its maker has produced something even better, and more relevant to The Guardian article.