Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ready For His Close Up

(Note: this post, which first appeared on May 12, is back from blogger oblivion.) I'm reading Oriana Fallaci's Interviews with History and Conversations with Power and thought I'd share this--her description of how the Libyan potentate stage set the second part of her 1979 interview with him. (Fallaci had promised to bring along a photographer, hence the desert theatrics):
It was the funniest scene I could have hoped for, I concluded, as I returned to finish the interview. The tent was in the middle of a closed courtyard, planted in the asphalt, and it looked so absurd and unreal that I felt as though I was on the set of The Sheik, that film that made Valentino famous in the 1920s. All that was missing was the crew with their cameras, electric cables, microphones, and the director furiously yelling "Who the hell told you to put this tent here?!"
Two flaming braziers stood on the threshold, next to three blooming rose bushes, and the interior made me remember the scene where Rudolf seduces his lover singing "I am the desert king, your heart belongs to me.." There was a blanket of fine white sand on the ground, with pretty mats laid on top of it. The ceiling and the walls were made of luxurious fabric with geometric designs, and on all sides were long couches covered with plump cushions. In the center was a horrendous plastic armchair, just like the ones that actors use during their breaks. On that chair, there he was, wrapped up in his white linen burnous and as ready as an actor waiting to hear "action!"
He had chosen a regal pose. Shoulders straight, legs together, hands resting on the armrests and nose in the air. He couldn't hold the pose, however, and without realizing that I was looking at him, he kept readjusting his burnous, smoothing out the wrinkles and fidgeting with the drapery. He was admiring his boots, which were black today, with a very high heel, and his gestures had a somewhat ambiguous nature, a kind of hermaphroditic flirting, a self-seduction. It was clear that he loved the way he looked dressed as a Bedouin, he felt beautiful, and he would have killed whoever said otherwise.
Clothes make the transvestite, eh?

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