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Carl Theodor Dreyer
Mikaël is an artist who rises as his teacher, the aging Zoret, falls. Zoret gives Mikaël his start, and their relationship is sexual as well. Then Mikaël takes up with the Princess Zamikoff, selling gifts from Zoret and even stealing from the master to pay for his carnal and luxurious life with her. He abandons Zoret, whose health begins to fail but who also discovers spirituality in his solitude. In a subplot, Alice Adelsskjold cuckolds her husband and takes a lover, the Duke of Monthieu; their relationship, infused with the eroticism of art, also gives way to religion as the duke becomes ill. Written by
Master painter Benjamin Christensen (as Claude Zoret) doesn't like the sketches offered for review by budding artist Walter Slezak (as Michael); instead, he asks the attractive young man to become his model. Mr. Christensen takes a liking to Mr. Slezak; and, soon, they are like father and son. Then, an alluring woman arrives to request Christensen paint her portrait. Young Slezak is attracted to his benefactor's feminine model, Nora Gregor (as Countess Zamikoff); and, the young models begin an affair. Christensen becomes despondent over the loss of his ward's attentions. While carrying on with Ms. Gregor, Slezak takes increasing advantage of Christensen's generosity. Will the old painter cut him off?
The homosexuality currently heralded to be found in Carl Theodor Dreyer' "Michael" is so subtle it's almost invisible. The Christensen-Slezak couplings must have occurred during their time in Algiers, which is over when the film begins. An even earlier affair, between Christensen and Robert Garrison (as Charles Switt), is a little clearer. It's nice to see cinematographer Karl Freund (as M. Leblanc), the art dealer who informs Christensen that Slezak is endeavoring to sell "The Victor", a painting which symbolizes their once close relationship. "Michael" requires more concentration than your average silent; to help, the overall production is excellent.
******** Michael (1924) Carl Theodor Dreyer ~ Benjamin Christensen, Walter Slezak, Nora Gregor
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