Friday, April 11, 2014

VENUS (2006): Peter the Great's Last Hurrah

This is my entry in the Diamonds and Gold Blogathon hosted by Caftan Woman and Wide Screen World. Click on their links for more about frisky cinema seniors.
A ruin at sunset

I love this film. I love Peter O'Toole and I love him in this film. I have had a mad crush on this man from the day he sat atop a camel. He can do no wrong in my book and here, playing and actor who is a ruin of his former beautiful self, he throws the autumn roses of his brilliance to all of us who have adored him for so long.

As Maurice, a washed up and burned out actor, O'Toole gives his last Oscar nominated performance (don't get me started on that particular snub). His career is a thing of the past, he is suffering from prostate cancer, his family are strangers and his days are filled with hours passed just being old. But, for Maurice, there is one last chance to grasp life with both hands, as into his life comes a girl. The grand-niece of his friend, Jessie (played by Jodie Whittaker) is young, lovely, frightfully modern and a hell raiser. One imagines that Maurice was quite a hell raiser in his day (as we know O'Toole surely was). She is no match intellectually or emotionally for Maurice, but, reluctantly, needs him. For one last time, he can play the gallant knight. Taking her under his wing, Maurice takes her to the National Gallery to view his favorite painting, Velazquez's Rokeby Venus. In his eyes, she is as lovely as the woman in the painting and he begins calling Jessie Venus.

Sharing his love of beauty

Sadly, his Venus is no Gueneviere. She is just a common young girl who likes boys her own age. But she  gives our knight one last chance at romance - a romance of the mind and heart, if not the flesh. Her's is the true purpose of beauty - to adore, to inspire and to live for.

In the beginning of the film there is a photo of the young O'Toole on display on a dresser. God, how beautiful he was. And here he is now, truly a wreck. But, what is outside is not on the inside. Inside he is still beautiful. Inside he still craves romance. His frame is old, but his heart is young. Venus is a love song to the last gasp of romance of an ancient with the spirit of a youth. The love of beauty is the secret of youth. This film comes ever so close to the dirty old man dance, but it never crosses that line because the touch, the warmth and closeness that Maurice craves is romance, the romance that stirs not just the loins, but the soul. Who cares that he chose not see the common and the tacky and the rough edges? How lucky for Maurice that he found his Venus to adore before the end. How lucky for Jessie to have been so adored.

Her gift was youth and kindness;
his was a glimpse into the soul of a romantic


Caftan Woman said...

Like O'Toole's performance in this film, your review broke my heart and healed it in the same moment.

Rich said...

I remember when he got nominated for this movie. That was Forest Whitaker's year and he pretty much dominated all the precursor awards leading up to the Oscars. O'Toole, unfortunately, didn't have a chance, but then again, no one else did that year, either. How did he not win for LAWRENCE, anyway?


I love O'Toole. I can't believe he is gone. ven typing his name is hard to me now.
And Venus, oh, Venus! Starts with a Lolita kind of story, and goes to a completely different direction.
I loved that you wrote that the love for beauty is what conserves th youth as people age.
Don't forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! :)

FlickChick said...

Thanks, CW - it was an emotional film for me for a few reasons - mainly because of O'Toole's last performance.

FlickChick said...

Hi Rich - I know! The man was so overlooked (The Ruling Class was one of my faves) - but his fans loved him.

FlickChick said...

Thanks you, Le - I'm on my way over now!

ClassicBecky said...

I've never seen this, Chick, and I'm a faithful O'Toole lover. It sounds wonderful ... I'll be looking for it. I salute your choice for this blogathon -- who better deserves it?

FlickChick said...

Thanks, Becky. It is sometimes hard to watch (kind of like old age is kind of hard to watch - especially when it is happening to you!), but it is ultimately uplifting in a sad way. I'm so glad O'Toole got a good role for his swan song.

Anonymous said...

This is such a beautiful film, and Peter O'Toole's role is pitched perfectly, it's a wonderful swan song. This movie could have gone off key, but for O'Toole's sake I'm so glad it didn't. Thanks for including this in the blogathon - it wouldn't have been complete without a mention of him.

FlickChick said...

Thank you, girlsdofilm - I still can't believe he is gone. But I'm glad he got such an awesome swan song.