“No matter how old you are the heart goes on cooking, sizzling like shish kebab." -- Leonard Cohen, interviewed in 2001
This quote from one of my favorite artists makes a perfect statement of the theme of “Venus”, a deeply moving UK comedy/drama starring one of the great stars of the firmament, Peter O’Toole (and I note that O’Toole happens to be of the same generation as Cohen, the former born in 1932, the latter in ‘34). He plays a venerable actor smitten with a rather crass young working-class nursemaid with an uncanny resemblance to a Venus by Titian or Giorgione (the film’s final shot recreates Velasquez’s “Venus at Her Mirror”). She’s played by Jodi Whittaker in one of those performances that’s so natural you can miss how good it is. From a series of oppositions—between her parochialism and her Renaissance beauty, between his infirm body and his heart’s yearning, between eyes grown sad and tired and the smile that still plays about them—from such oppositions flows both the film’s comedy and its uncommonly honest treatment of love, aging and the theme that the heart dies last.
“So we'll go no more a-roving/So late into the night/Though the heart be still as loving/And the moon be still as bright,” says the poet Byron. “For the sword outwears its sheath/And the soul outwears the breast/And the heart must pause to breathe/And love itself have rest.”
- Feb 27, 2007