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click opera - The adventures of Tadzio in Japan
February 2010
 
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Mon, Jan. 7th, 2008 02:25 pm
The adventures of Tadzio in Japan

Bjørn Andresen (born 1955 in Stockholm) was the child star of Visconti's lugubriously beautiful 1971 film version of Thomas Mann's "Death in Venice", centred around the homosexual longings of an elderly composer for a beautiful teenage boy he spots in a Venice gripped by cholera. You can see Visconti casting the movie in the documentary In Search of Tadzio. Andresen, now a minor actor raising a family back in his native Sweden, has reached the age of Dirk Bogarde's character Von Aschenbach in the film, but looks back at his teenage fame with somewhat less affection. Tadzio has become something of a skeleton in Andresen's closet, a portrait in his attic.



Andresen has complained about being taken to gay clubs by Visconti and the (predominantly gay) crew, and was upset when Germaine Greer put his image (snapped by David Bailey) on the cover of her book The Beautiful Boy. He later experimented with gay sex himself: "I had a homosexual experience in the 70s," he told El Mundo magazine. "People were discovering the gay thing and then in the world of entertainment homosexuals became very popular in Sweden. It seemed very modern, something that was fashionable. I think we have to try everything. I did it more or less to say that I'd tried it, but it's not really my cup of tea."



The other thing Andresen tried was Japan. "After the release of Death in Venice," says Wikipedia, "Andresen spent an extended period of time in Japan, where he appeared in a number of television commercials and also recorded two pop songs. It is said that his appearance as Tadzio in the film inspired many Japanese anime artists (known for their depictions of young, effeminate men), especially Keiko Takemiya". This intrigued me -- the idea that Tadzio became a model for the kind of bishonen character I was singing about in my 1988 song "Bishonen" (based on an account of "the third sex" in Ian Buruma's book "A Japanese Mirror") -- so I set about trying to google whatever I could about "Tadzio in Japan".



The history of Andresen's Japanese months can be gleaned from various Japanese websites dedicated to him and the endless merchandising his ambivalent image has spawned. "Death in Venice" was shot in early 1970. Andresen visited Japan twice, in August and December of 1971. On these trips the beautiful boy posed for a fashion feature in An-An magazine, where he was styled by Isao Kaneko and art directed by Seiichi Horiuchi. They put him in sailor suits and tried to make him look as much like the 15 year-old Tadzio of the film as possible, despite the fact that he'd already turned 16. An-An came out on September 20th, and "Death in Venice" hit Japanese screens on October 2nd.



Andresen didn't waste time in Japan; he also appeared in some commercials for a Meiji chocolate product called Excel. He recorded two singles for CBS / Sony, "Forever Together" and "For Loving", but disappointed fans by saying in interviews that he had no desire to continue his music career (much later, he played in a Swedish group called Sven Eric's Dance Band).

One Japanese website shows family snapshot album pictures of Andresen in Japan in 1971 with his parents. The captions show a typically Japanese amused fascination with the gaijin's first encounter with Japanese food:

"Bjorn pokes at sukiyaki. As for the raw egg, he must have had a bad feeling about it -- it seems not to have been eaten."

"Bjorn stuffs his mouth with rice crackers. The expression on his face is one you won't see in the movie."

"Bjorn gets angry for a moment. To tell the truth, it's because he's been told he's too young to drink the sake he's been looking forward to."



Andresen's lasting Japanese legacy, though, is to have provided a little bit of his cultural DNA to the shoujo manga industry in the form of a marked influence on the way epicene, ambiguous male heroes were portrayed. For a while, at least, the beautiful Swedish boy inspired depictions of the bishonen, "the youthful hero doomed to fall like blossom". Not to mention a wildly successful slew of four-button sailor tops from Isao Kaneko's Pink House label.

26CommentReplyShare


(Anonymous)
Mon, Jan. 7th, 2008 02:27 pm (UTC)

I knew you'd write about Death In Venice one day. As you creep past your fiftieth birthday, you'll no doubt turn into a digital-age Von Aschenbach yourself, idly fondling your half-erect penis while watching YouTube videos of pubescent Jap girls in synthesis, with the tears rolling down your hollowed-out cheeks...


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Jan. 7th, 2008 02:43 pm (UTC)

Good morning, Texan Tosser's Friend! You're up early!


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Jan. 7th, 2008 02:51 pm (UTC)

Ah, Von Momus. I've never understood why you think it's so terribly clever to mention the IP origin of anonymous posts, especially in this day and age of widespread proxy use. All you need to know about me is that I'm a lithe, tousle-haired golden youth of a commenter. I'm just waiting for the cheesy synth version of the slow movement of Mahler's 5th on your new album.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Jan. 7th, 2008 03:05 pm (UTC)

Very well, you shall be known as The Golden Tosser's Friend from now on.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Jan. 7th, 2008 03:32 pm (UTC)

I just don't accept this division of "trolls" from "right-minded folks", or the Jack Straw-like argument that "there's a small minority of disruptive people spoiling everything for the rest of us". Sure, there are "propertyless" people out there (without their own "houses" in the form of blogs) who are sometimes critical. But they're people too! With points of view which are sometimes worth considering!

You know, I used to contribute to a messageboard where anyone with a different view was routinely called a troll. There was a music fan who championed melody, for instance. He was a troll. There was a sexist communist fellow. He was one too. Even I was considered a "troll" by some there. It just seemed like narrow-minded bullying. Meanwhile, the people who were apparently beyond criticism there seemed incredibly bland and dull. Quite frankly, if anyone should have been banned it should have been the dull ones.

You know, Kuma, there are some here who might even want to see you branded a "troll" and banned. I absolutely don't agree. In a healthy society or on a healthy blog, "characters with strong views" are fine, necessary, welcome.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Jan. 7th, 2008 04:14 pm (UTC)

Sure, but he gave me a great tip about recording some Mahler for my next album!

As for me as Von Aschenbach, I suppose The Golden Tosser's Friend can be forgiven for not knowing my entire back catalogue; 1997's 2pm goes: "I wander in Venice with Von Aschenbach..."


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Jan. 7th, 2008 04:53 pm (UTC)

I seem to have another track by them (well, Route-D Staff Roll) on my drive. It's quite a good, clean arrangement. Reminds me a bit of The Poison Girlfriend. I like the quiet breakdown in the middle.


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Jan. 8th, 2008 12:04 am (UTC)

Feed them more Momus they seem more insightful, and humorous with it. We know they all love you really.


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butterflyrobert
RND
Mon, Jan. 7th, 2008 02:43 pm (UTC)

He's fortunate to have had such a fascinating career at 15-16.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Jan. 7th, 2008 03:34 pm (UTC)

What can I say? I defer to your superior knowledge on this one!


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electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Mon, Jan. 7th, 2008 05:15 pm (UTC)

Momus, seriously, don´t go on /y/.

Don´t go on yaoigallery either. All I got from there is a Bowie/Nomi/Iggy threesome and satyr porn.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Jan. 7th, 2008 03:41 pm (UTC)

I find Andresen's explanation of being "gay in the 70s" interesting. He seems to blame fashion and peer pressure. I wonder if being "gay in the 70s" is a bit like being "lesbian until graduation"? Temorarily gay girls at US liberal arts colleges are "lugies" (Lesbian Until Graduation). Which would make people gay only in the 70s "gissies" or something.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Jan. 7th, 2008 03:48 pm (UTC)



Classic gissy! Straight by '83!


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electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Mon, Jan. 7th, 2008 05:13 pm (UTC)

As if, he was gay in the 60s too.


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microworlds
microworlds
Sparkachu Maelworth
Mon, Jan. 7th, 2008 10:38 pm (UTC)

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Alternatively:
Image and video hosting by TinyPic


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electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Mon, Jan. 7th, 2008 05:12 pm (UTC)

I just came all over this post, and now LJ will probably ban me and it´s your fault :(


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Jan. 7th, 2008 05:14 pm (UTC)

Everything depends on whether you were looking at the 15 or 16 year-old Bjorn when you came. Think hard, now, a lot is riding on this!


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electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Mon, Jan. 7th, 2008 05:18 pm (UTC)

Can´t we just pretend he ages in reverse?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Jan. 7th, 2008 05:30 pm (UTC)


ReplyThread Parent
electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Mon, Jan. 7th, 2008 06:34 pm (UTC)

Noo, they´re oppressing my right to be born in the future!


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pay_option07
pay_option07
Mon, Jan. 7th, 2008 06:04 pm (UTC)
reached the age of Dirk Bogarde's character

I prefer Dirk and "The Night Porter" classic.

Tadzio I can live without. He seems very French Provincial aristocratic and sublime.

http://www.wordpress.tokyotimes.org/?p=622

Now "hard o gay" guy is outa sight but has gotten too commercial. His early Youtubes of saving children from squirrels, and mothers from crying babies where unique.



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lord_whimsy
lord_whimsy
whimsy
Mon, Jan. 7th, 2008 10:21 pm (UTC)


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Jan. 7th, 2008 11:06 pm (UTC)

Speaking of swedish childstars, this is what Ingmar Bergman's "Fanny and Alexander" look like 25 years later:

http://gfx.aftonbladet.se/multimedia/archive/00100/S__H_R_SER_DE_UT_I__100592w.jpg


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Jan. 7th, 2008 11:31 pm (UTC)

Oh no, he's bald already!

But he's still a little boy!


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port_infinite
the one and only alexander journal
Tue, Jan. 8th, 2008 02:38 am (UTC)

I just found the soundtrack with Tadzio featured on the cover. God works in mysterious gay ways!!!


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theydontloveyou
--
Tue, Jan. 8th, 2008 06:05 am (UTC)

Haha! How funny!


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