It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Luchino Visconti’s Luchino Visconti’s “Ludwig” has been cut by more than 30 minutes since its New York premiere, and ordinarily that would be cause for outrage. In this case, however, the trims may simply have been merciful. Even at its present length, the movie is so lethargic and persistently uninteresting that members of the audience were moved to whistle, yawn loudly and visit the water fountain.
Perhaps only Visconti, who seems obsessed with the gloomy side of decadence, could have made Ludwig II of Bavaria seem boring. Referred to somewhat cheerfully by his subjects as the Mad King, he was an egotistical little martinet who was the patron of Richard Wagner, constructed fantastically expensive castles, and was fond of making entrances by boat through indoor swan pools.
He was also apparently bisexual, and this aspect of his personality seems to interest Visconti the most - although not enough alas, to interest us. Ludwig’s sex life in this film consists of a few enigmatic conversations with Elizabeth of Austria (Romy Schneider), a homosexual orgy which begins low-key and ends with everyone asleep, and lots and lots of penetrating stares.
I thought Visconti had just about used up the possibility of penetrating stares in his last movie, “Death in Venice,” which contained nearly 15 minutes of them. But, no, his characters are staring all the more penetratingly in “Ludwig,” perhaps because they are afraid to break out in the movie’s ludicrous dialog. It is always a little difficult to find sympathy for characters whose words seem to be translated literally from unpublishable German Gothic novels. It has been a long time, for example, since I’ve heard anyone called “sire,” even in a movie about royalty.