Saturday 10 August 2002

Ethics of an auteur

Thomas Doherty on Leni Riefenstahl (link via Arts & Letters Daily):

Perhaps the neglect of Riefenstahl — as an artist, as opposed to as a case study in demonology — reflects the difficulty of owning up to the enduring attraction of Nazi aesthetics. Since the 1960s, the main currents of humanistic inquiry have discounted the new-critical notions of immutability and transcendence of art, insisting on the linkage of the personal and the political. Ironically, Riefenstahl, the artist whose career pre-eminently confirms the commingling of art and life, has been auteur non grata precisely because her work has lived beyond its historical moment and ideological context. Whether in the mise-en-scène of Star Wars (1977) or the staging of a heavy-metal rock show, our fascination with her fascism — our surrender to the absolute beauty of her images — is unsettling to contemplate.

Riefenstahl, meanwhile, remains committed to what she smugly calls in her memoirs “my comeback.” Not too long ago, at a fin de siècle soiree given by Time magazine, she could be spotted happily chatting with Henry Kissinger. Taking in the scene, a writer for The New Yorker could only comment, “There is no God.”

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She's as good a case study in the inequivalence of Good and Beauty as any, and a compelling argument in favor of examining the intent of the creator of a work of art.

It's not enough to ask "Is it beautiful?" In a moral universe, we must also ask: "What does it mean?"

Posted by Pascale Soleil on 11 August 2002 (Comment Permalink)

This discussion is now closed. My thanks to everyone who contributed.

© Copyright 2007 Jonathon Delacour