- 1h 33m
A retelling of the life of the celebrated 17th-century painter through his brilliant, nearly blasphemous paintings and his flirtations with the underworld.A retelling of the life of the celebrated 17th-century painter through his brilliant, nearly blasphemous paintings and his flirtations with the underworld.A retelling of the life of the celebrated 17th-century painter through his brilliant, nearly blasphemous paintings and his flirtations with the underworld.
It's easy to be frustrated by movie that seems by its title to be one thing but is so clearly something else. This is no bio-pic of the great artist. It doesn't even create (to me) a more abstract sense of what it might have meant to be such an artist, or to be creative and tormented and a scrappy, sometimes ill man.
Instead it's a movie that uses some themes, and some paintings, of Caravaggio and builds a completely invented (to my knowledge) story line. For one thing, it's set in some fairly recent time--the 1920s or 30s, perhaps? And it's highly highly British, which is no flaw, but it feels part of a 1980s London underground in the expressions and vocabulary. If you can open up to all that, you've made a first step. If you can't, forget it. Run to another version (like the terrific new Italian one from 2007).
The second step is key, too, however, for many of you. This is an overtly homo-erotic, or at least homosexually charged fantasy. It has no overt sex (though there is lots of kissing all around) and it does includes some female actors (including a fabulous Tilda Swinton), but there are lots of "pretty boy" scenes and a sensibility that is just frankly different than the usual film world mainstream.
That's a great thing. That doesn't however make the movie completely work. It's worth watching if you are prepared for its tone, and it's brilliant in some sense, utterly original, a kind of high production value, high culture flip side to the films of Andy Warhol (if that makes any sense at all). There are excesses in violence, bloody, death, love, corporal pleasure and corporal torture--but these are exactly what the 1980s were all about. Think of Robert Mapplethorpe.
It's not my own world at all, but I found it a kind of thrill to see made so rich and colorful, so unexpected every turn. And so photographically beautiful. It is at times disturbing and moving, but mostly it is pretty and fascinating. It lacks a more usual structure, but you get used to that and learn to like it.
- Sep 3, 2011