I think it works because of the mixed messages it gives - ironic and irreverent youth, full of life and mocking death and it's trappings, and yet with an acknowledgment that even so he's a part of death and its trappings as much as anyone else. If he was unknown, it would have the same kind of power, in fact it may seem even more intriguing! - and that's all without the afterknowledge of the nearness of his death, which is adds another layer of meaning.