Now the once teen idol, a kind of Timothée Chalamet of his era, is vastly different from the naive young man in the 1970 Super 8 footage. If you’ve ever seen Caspar David Friedrich’s painting “Wanderer above the Sea of Fog,” you’ll know it’s emblematic of the romantic hero: the young man looking over the vista of cloudy mountains toward his vast unknown future. There’s a sense of reflection and quiet abandonment to the work, an amber protected portrait of youth. The present-day Andrésen, bordering on frail, with his long, grey wispy hair providing half his weight, is Friedrich’s romantic hero, but now at the other side of the mountain. And he’s looking over a view that isn’t nearly as hopeful.
“The Most Beautiful Boy in the World” has a slightly fractured arrangement. Driven by Filip Leyman and Anna Von Hausswolff’s hard-charging score, Lindström and Petri’s film cycles through the tragedies in Andrésen’s life, which are often more experientially connected than narratively. Rather his recollections often play as siloed investigations, a timbre the unraveling edit tries to piece together.
While fighting an eviction notice (his apartment is described as an “environmental hazard”) and working to maintain his relationship with his girlfriend Jessica Vennberg, he thinks back on the aftermath of working on “Death in Venice,” especially during the Cannes Film Festival. It’s here the moniker “the most beautiful boy in the world,” bestowed upon him by Visconti while in London, takes shape. In the clips, there’s a targeting on the director’s part: at one point, he explains how Andrésen’s lost some of his beauty now that he’s slightly older. Andrésen often veers very closely to equating homosexuality with pedophilia, which should offer some pause, even if the documentary doesn’t endorse the sentiment.
Andrésen also recounts the many times adults took advantage of him: his granny who first took him to the audition; the people at a Cannes afterparty at a gay bar; the amphetamines given to him in Japan; the disquieting patron in Paris who paraded him as a trophy. The actor is often opaque about what he dealt with, to the point of his experiences being indecipherable rather than easily explained. Such as the aforementioned Parisian trip, which reads as though he went into sex work but didn’t. His muddiness, which impedes the brisk pace of the documentary’s opening third, is emblematic of the aftereffects of traumatic events, but doesn’t make for an easily digestible watch during the film’s middle third either.
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