Free Newsletter sign-up
Search Justinian
Justinian's news stories

The "sleek kangaroo" of Bangalow ... He thought it was romance ... She believed it was sexual harassment ... Sal Vasta gets to work on law firm principal's over-wrought advances ... $170,000 awarded to female solicitor trapped at Bangelow law shop with predatory pest ... Read more ... 

Justinian Columnists

Ming the Merciless ... Menzies: The Art of Politics ... Placing material success at the centre of things ... Vision of a bigger future goes missing ... Egon Kisch, H.V. Evatt, Petrov ... Politics of Australia and the sad state of now ... Procrustes ferments ... Read more ... 



Justinian's Bloggers

Muddied oafs ... It was 1956 and Sir William Slim was Governor General, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean surfaced in Moscow and My Fair Lady opened on Broadway ... It was also the year that two teams of NSW solicitors and barristers squeezed into their footy gear and scrummed down ... Read more ... 

This form does not yet contain any fields.

    "Sydney is such a strange place. The only place in the world where they have so many parks. Everywhere, national parks. They are only good for snakes." 

    Harry Triguboff, the boss of Meriton, builder of cheap and ugly apartment buildings, complaining that parks are an impediment to property developers. The Wentworth Courier, May 29, 2019 ... Read more flatulence ... 

    Justinian Featurettes

    Love of the French ... Distress that Australia's great wine commentator and educator celebrated his birthday with a selection of French wines ... What's wrong with local wines for a well-deserved celebratory toast? ... Gabriel Wendler stirs up a storm in a wine glass ... Read more ... 

    Justinian's archive

    When only the victim speaks the truth ... Author Bri Lee's book Eggshell Skull scoops up another prize - this time at the Australian Book Industry Awards ... A story of childhood sexual assault ... While the book continues to collect awards, the author's view about how natural justice ought to work should be read with caution ... In 2018 we published lawyer Joanna Jenkins's review ... It's timely to reprise her concerns about the book ... Read more ... 



    « Melissa Davey | Main | The crabs run free »

    Wilde's Dieppe into despair

    Rupert Everett gives us the post-Newgate decay of Oscar Wilde ... Dieppe, Paris and Naples ... The Happy Prince, reviewed by Miss Lumière ... The tail end of a regrettable defamation action ... A rouge dabbed reminder of Death in Venice ... The not-so-gay final chapter of an Irish wit, complete with the famous wallpaper scene  

    Oh Wilde! And wonderful fall from grace. The story of the celebrated author's desperate downward trajectory has fascinated for over a century, so why do we need yet another rendition?

    The answer is embarrassingly simple. Rupert Everett. His portrayal of Oscar Wilde in his directorial debut The Happy Prince is full of empathy, elevating Wilde's last sordid days with a kind of divine pathos.

    This is no superficial portrayal of the great Irish wit.

    Everett, one of Hollywood's first openly gay actors, knows the territory; it is marked in his own physical decline from youthful Adonis to paunchy middle-aged "fairy" - to quote from the film.

    Love letter and passion project the film may be, but no one could sustain a charge of vanity, given the ruthless examination of Wilde's dissolution, bodily and otherwise.

    Everett imbues this unhappy prince of letters with humanity, melancholy and enormous verve, sometimes simultaneously.

    It's all there on screen – in the grubby scenes of his demise in a gloomy Paris hotel room, in the blue-tinged flashbacks of his scarifying public humiliation at Clapham Station on route to Newgate Prison, and in the rough and raucous and strangely sweet scenes of Oscar singing for his supper in a sleazy absinthe bar. 

    Everett's script (quite excellent, for an actor) makes use of many of Wilde's witticisms and much of his writing (The Happy Prince and De Profundis in particular) to great effect, largely because they exist in an appropriate dramatic context.

    The film freely jumps time frames from Wilde's high life in London to his low life in Dieppe and Paris and to sunny rat-infested Naples where he goes with his beloved Bosie (Lord Alfred Douglas) after his release from prison.

    Poor effete Oscar did two years hard labour for gross indecency.

    Readers will remember Wilde precipitated his own downfall by vaingloriously suing his lover's father, the  Marquess of Queensberry (no rules apply) for libel after the old brute sent a note to Wilde at his club, which read "For Oscar Wilde, posing as a sodomite". 

    He lost. Not only the libel action, but everything else.

    Everett's film is an impressionistic portrait, punctuated by dreams and substance-induced delirium which leads inexorably towards Wilde's grim end.

    As a first time director, he mostly manages to pull it off, aided by some atmospheric camera work and music.

    It must be said that beautiful Bosie looks uncannily like an older version of the boy who played Tadzio to Dirk Bogarde's Aschenbach in Luchino Visconti's magnificent Death in Venice.

    In fact, there's a not-too-subtle homage to that film in a scene where Wilde applies rouge to his sagging jowls before facing the world. 

    The film makes clear its moral stance on Bosie (a cad if ever there was) who abandons Wilde when the money runs out.

    Bosie (a perfectly cast Colin Morgan) is callow and cruel, unlike Wilde's former lover and literary executor Robbie Ross (Edwin Thomas) who cannot understand the great man's love for him.

    Wilde himself has no illusions, asking rhetorically, "Why does one run towards ruin?" and answering that "love is everything".

    Emily Watson as Wilde's wife Constance, Colin Firth as his great friend Reggie Turner and Tom Wilkinson as the droll Catholic priest who gives him absolution on his deathbed, are all as good as you would expect. 

    Everett is even better. In "The Happy Prince" Wilde finally has the love he so richly deserved.

    "The Happy Prince" is screening in limited release now. 

    Reader Comments

    There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.
    Editor Permission Required
    You must have editing permission for this entry in order to post comments.