Sunday, April 06, 2008

Charlton Heston

The death of an actor, in times of extinction of the great spectacular.

Charlton Heston, the movie actor, disappeared tonight. The last screen impression we have of him is unpleasant, being his interview in Michael Moore's "Bowling a Columbine", where he arrogantly and proudly defended the use and cult of guns. We don't like weapons: so, we prefer remember the king of epic in his most enjoyable and bizarre performances, as the postmodern sideshow "Planet of Apes", the bigger than life "Ben Hur" with his horse spectaculars, and the delirant triumph of old-time cheap stage effect and rethorics of "Ten Commandments".

And, of course, "The Greatest Show on Earth". Not because we are especially in love with this circus melodrama, having an incredible poor value as a movie (but misteriously Academy Award winner of 1952). But because this movie perfectly depicts a now extinct circus world. Braden, the Heston character (inspired by Art Concello), is the last prototype of the classic circus director. A man able to juggle with storms, midgets, giraffes, mud, criminality, women, labor, artist's egos, authorities and audiences. Probably, the great intuition of director Cecil B.De Mille was in the fact that the 20th century circus director was the last prototype of the hero icon. And, in fact, all this quickly disappeared. Just three years after the movie, the very same big top universe depicted by De Mille folded forever, canceling from the earth the mithology of the travelling city.
Today, the notion of great circus is not anymore an alchemy of blood and sawdust, going towards a cold Broadway surrogate in its best cases. Death and danger, unpleasant smells and precariety, bestiality and eroticism are slowly disappearing. If sideshows and monstruosities abandoned the big top in the late 50s, now the big top itself is disappearing from the landscape, with all his cornucopia of animals and acrobats' dinasties. Political correctness is a menace for the circus. Maybe because the circus, so crude and brutal, so different and devastating, used to emphasize on mistery instead that on reality, to confuse instead to reassure.
But reassuring never was the aim of great art and entertainment. For that reason, the fictionary Braden and the once real "Greatest Show on Earth", witness from the screen of an era when stage or circus novelties and wonders were all about the fight with death and the hope of survival. What the great theatre always was and has to be. What our poor lives are about, after all.


Wade G. Burck said...

Well spoken words. Be safe.
Your friend,
Wade Burck


Wonderful black and white pictures!
As always, Raffaele.

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