Wednesday, 3 July 2013


'Behind the Candelabra' is a very good follow up/companion piece to 'Rhinestone as Big as the Ritz' not withstanding that one is a movie staring Michael Douglas and the other an essay by Dave Hickey. They illustrate perfectly that it is possible to have two definitively alternative takes on the same person, and therefore illustrate the inherent problems of biography, and indeed the fact that the medium may well be the message. The movie, which is sumptuous and brilliantly shot and acted, reflects an interior dialogue; it chews over narcissism at it's core, a vampirism, and of course the sadness at the heart of our relationships. The essay chirps away on the subject of Liberace's cultural significance, of his lasting legacy and the facts of what he did, all of which are almost invisible (paradoxically) in the movie. The movie cannot for instance, point out that covering a Rolls Royce in mirror and conceptually making it disappear is an art trick as fundamental as cubism, or that we wouldn't have Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Elton John or for that matter Steven Tyler or  Motley Crue without him. You might think this second set of stuff is somehow less important than the emotional heartland, but it is central to the act of looking at things and interpreting them without necessaily knowing what the artist in question had for breakfast, and that is quite a handy skill, because we don't always know that. Unfortunately in movies you have to (sort of) show what your characters ate for breakfast, which allows us to breathe a hefty sigh of relief when we consider writing, which is far lower in definition, and within which, acres of empty space therefore hang fraught with possibility.

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