Perhaps intended as a tribute, a love poem, or an attempt to chronicle an icon, this begging cup is rattling empty. It’s as if those close to Rock Hudson scurried like bugs under an overturned rock, denying access to these filmmakers. No interviews with Doris Day, Elizabeth Taylor or the lovers most prominent in his life. No archival statements from Hudson, except, when asked what his greatest enjoyments were, he answered, “Well, there are so many.”
For those of us who grew up with the Rock Hudson movies, he was portrayed as the model man. But what did that mean? Was he so perfect because, unlike so many other actors, he never broke a woman’s heart? Was he so perfect because he just looked good, was polite and didn’t cause any trouble? Was Hudson so perfect because he just pretended to be what the public wanted?
The only thing the viewer might learn from this film is that Hudson went to at least one club to pick-up a man for a one-night stand, he threw pool/sex parties for gay guys and was the subject of an attempted blackmail scheme.
But what about the guy? What did he think … about anything? What did he care about? Whom did he admire? What charities did he favor? Who were his friends? What did he do in his spare time? Besides his swimming pool, what did the rest of his house look like? Was he political? Did he just live a superficial private life consisting of drinking and recreational sex?
As mentioned in the film, Hudson was the first victim that the whole world knew who died of AIDS. He put a face on the disease that by the year of his death, 1985, had ravaged around 13,000 American males.
There is a clip of Elizabeth Taylor at an AIDS function speaking in his memory, but no interview with her for this film.
Flat, vacuous and oddly filmed with jumpy camera shots of Hollywood palm trees, this film doesn’t merit professional or artistic status. But just in case this is being too hard, there is one interesting caveat. Some time is spent on a film Hudson insisted on making, despite advice not to. Called “Seconds,” this neo-noir film is about people who get a second chance to create their lives. It was a box office failure, but that Hudson would insist on working on a dark, black and white film about dissatisfaction with life is telling.
“Rock Hudson – Dark and Handsome Stranger” is a German production, though it’s presented in English. It premieres on Oct. 21 at the Festival of New German Cinema in Los Angeles.
Just because of the iconic title viewers will probably flock to the film just to see archival shots of this beautiful man. But be forewarned, after 95 minutes Hudson still remains an emotionless stranger and the audience will be left unsatisfied.
Directors/Writers: Andrew Davies and André Schäfer
Next Showing: GERMAN CURRENTS – Festival of New German Cinema Oct. 21 at 7:30 p.m., Egyptian Theatre/Spielberg in Los Angeles, Calif.: www.goethe.de/ins/us/los/prj/ger/sch/enindex.htm
Run time: 95 minutes
Production Company: Florianfilm, Cologne, Germany
Genre: Documentary | Biography
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