What do you think about when you hear Rufus Wainwright's "Oh What a World?" I, for one, think of David Niven and the classic 1956 movie Around the World in 80 Days. Not just plain old handsome and sophisticated David Niven, however. The David Niven I think of when I hear this song is the Niven on an elephant being suave and racing to get back to London even though the train tracks haven't been completed as scheduled so his train cannot make it to the next destination. (phweh. that run-on sentence just had to get out of me). This is the Niven charming the Indian princess Aouda, asking her "Will you join me on the verandah? I understand they serve an outstanding lemon squash."
So much of Rufus' catalogue feels like classic movies to me. The end of his "Old Whore's Diet," wow! What do I see? Camels moving languidly up sand dunes, so slowly, so up-and-down that one only sees the humps of the camel every few seconds or so and in such a hot environment that everything is blurred like the world is melting away. You know what I am talking about? When it is just that hot that things look all curvy, all vague. The camels are slowly ascending the dunes towards a sea where an armada is arriving. Some galleons, too. Perhaps Lawrence of Arabia fits in there somewhere. But one thing is for sure, Rufus is riding one of those camels, slowly bumping up the sand, and, as the sweat drips of his brow, his voice becoming louder, stronger, more urgent. It's the end of the movie, he reaches the top of the mountain of sand, and end. That's it.
Rufus may be some people's Gay Messiah, but he will forever be my David Niven in a hot air balloon landing in India, taking an elephant to the camel, where he will travel until the end of the movie when he reaches the water. This is what "gets me going in the morning."