Everyone feels they know much of Oscar Wilde, the ultimate prophet laureate of pop culture, but no one can really come close to grasping a micron of that man’s life until they understand Clapham Junction.
Rupert Everett’s The Happy Prince, with Everett as Oscar, is the first biopic of Wilde I saw that conjures something that the poet prized above all else – the emotional truth of a situation. This took some courage, a deep love, and substantial amount of wrath at the state of things then, and now.
Oscar Wilde made to sit on a bench at Clapham Junction on his way to Reading Gaol, publicly shamed and spat at by a crowd in a frenzy of derision towards a man who gave the English language some of its best wit.
That’s one scene you will never be able to unsee. And that’s how it’s supposed to be.
I always wondered if Oscar was not so loud, proud and unrepentant, would he have been made to suffer humiliation as much by the status quo he offended? Homosexuality was what he was imprisoned for, but his fearlessness was his downfall.
Hypocrisy is the main meal of this here work, and it hits its target hard and true.
Then, there is the Dorian Gray portrait of the dark, glamorous heart of his fateful relationship with Lord Douglas, an ultimately deceitful union, unrequited love and forbidden longing dressed up as lust – because a man like Bosie couldn’t decifer love, only attention.
The kaleidoscope of images of a rapidly decaying Oscar and a sulking sun-kissed Bosie made finally clear to me just how much this lopsided passion had to be transformed into art – all the workings of a forever unsatiated desire laid bare, in minute detail and unsavory stain. The process of love unmanifested or undone becomes art incarnate – someone plain and perfect like Bosie made complex and eternal by one flawed man’s quest for truth in beauty.
Wilde in Paris, final days, all thunder, fairy-tales and sores, dying in a corner of a mouldy room, adorned by angelic rent boys and their kin, with a few true friends that never backed down. Tom Wilkinson as the friendly Irish priest that comes up to help with the earthly farewells – for some reason this is what finally broke me, completely.
And that seems just about what can say about this dimond in the gutter. For now.