Dirk Bogarde’s extraordinary tour-de-force as an ageing German avant-garde composer Gustav von Aschenbach is the jewel in the crown of Luchino Visconti’s masterly 1971 film adaptation of the Thomas Mann novella Death in Venice. In the book, Aschenbach is an author, but Bogarde’s character is loosely based on the distinguished composer/conductor Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) and the actor takes his appearance and details in the film from Mahler too (…) Is it just a romantic, almost novelettish, tragic gay love story or a profound portrait of the artist as an old man and his inevitably doomed life, or the plague-destroyed quest after unattainable beauty and perfection?  Or all of them? Any which way, Visconti and Bogarde have come up with one of the cinema’s masterworks. — Derek Winnert

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