Monday, November 22, 2010

#201 Caravaggio (1986)


Director: Derek Jarman

Cast: Noam Almaz, Dawn Archibald, Sean Bean, Dexter Fletcher, Nigel Davenport

Who was Caravaggio? Don't expect this film to tell you.

On the contrary, the film is more of an imagined, vignette view of his life–imagined lovers, relationships, and career. Fiction. What could've been, but probably wasn't. Set to long 'bouts of poetry and full of cheesy 20th century anachronisms that are either meaningful (lost on me!) or a playful poke.

What's more is that the film-maker seems particularly fascinated with the concept of homo-eroticism in the artist world during the time period of the baroque. Simply glazing over Caravaggio's true artistic importance to his era (tenebrism, the first bouts of realism verse idealism, single light source, motion/dynamism within painting, breaking the boundaries of the 4th wall).... and rather spends that time daydreaming about what sorts of erotic gay relationships may have inspired each painting.

While there is nothing wrong with this non-literal approach to the film, I did have quite a number of issues with its general presentation. For one, the lack of dialogue (and inclusion of so much poetry) makes this film practically inaccessible to anyone not already familiar with who Caravaggio is-- and even for the most avid art history lover (myself), the film was a hard view. The broken, sporadic timeline made the vignettes difficult to follow, though I can only suppose they were added for artistic "breath" in the plot's (or lack thereof) momentum.

One thing I can commend this film on is its OWN use of realism-- how dirty and fantastic the characters appear! This, I'm sure, Caravaggio himself would've commended.

Overall, wouldn't recommend to anyone who isn't a major art history buff or fan of artistic nonlinear, plotless film. A difficult sell for most.

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