Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Birthday Boy: Beautiful Stranger
It can, on an abstract level, be a blessing when the beautiful die young.
It's hard to imagine today's birthday boy at 64. It's hard to imagine him, for that matter, outside the very particular milieu in which he shot to fame, for Brad Davis is as pure a product of the era cut short by AIDS as there is.
His was a physical perfection that less recalls that of his contemporary male stars than it does the greatest beauties of Hollywood - he's a kind of testosterone-fueled Hedy Lamarr, stunning but blank. That quality - an at times unnerving combination of physical charisma and emotional vacancy - is what made him, in the few films in which he starred, so effective. None of the other hunks of the era - the men who sauntered through the lesser action pictures and supported aging leading ladies in TV movies and second-string "international" movies that fed the fledgling cable-TV industry - were poised so perfectly between the obsessions of Fassbinder (the king of Dangerous Strangers) and Warhol (the immortalizer of Banal Enigmas). It's fitting, then, that he reached the apex of his short career in Querelle, directed by the former with poster art by the latter.
Nothing he did thereafter captured him so well, and then he was gone. What could he have done? Would a franker era, one with less patience for his excesses and obfuscations, have allowed him to find a niche of some kind?