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The Unloved, Part 114: Ludwig

The great Helmut Berger has left us. He was the beautiful face of a cinema of death and decay, the impossible beauty of the European cinema of the '70s. His proper debut was split between a legendary drag performance for his partner Luchino Visconti's "The Damned," a haunting study of a Germany moving headlong into fascism, and suitably, the same year's "Dorian Gray," directed by Massimo Dallamano. That was how he presented himself. Like a man who would never age, though he would play characters with twisted hearts causing them to age three times their lifespan, growing crooked and debased. 

Berger worked for everyone from the high-brow likes of Joseph Losey and Vittorio De Sica to the tawdry likes of Umberto Lenzi and Jesus Franco. He finally ended his career in a valedictory capacity, as the screen's regal gremlin king in the stupendous "Saint Lauren" by Bertrand Bonello and Albert Serra's impish "Liberté."

Here's a celebration of "Ludwig," a 1973 film directed by Luchino Visconti, the cinema's great aristocratic aesthete. It's his most soul-bearing love letter to the late Helmut Berger, and a look at what happens when you search heedlessly for the most splendid things in life and let everything else fall to ruin. 

To watch more of Scout Tafoya's video essays from his series The Unloved, click here

Scout Tafoya

Scout Tafoya is a critic and filmmaker who writes for and edits the arts blog Apocalypse Now and directs both feature length and short films.

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