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A young man is convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to a term in prison. There he forms a close relationship with his cellmate and upon his release his wife is concerned as to how prison has changed the man she married.
Mikaël is an artist who rises as his teacher, the aging Zoret, falls. Zoret gives Mikaël his start, and their relationship is sexual as well. Then Mikaël takes up with the Princess Zamikoff, selling gifts from Zoret and even stealing from the master to pay for his carnal and luxurious life with her. He abandons Zoret, whose health begins to fail but who also discovers spirituality in his solitude. In a subplot, Alice Adelsskjold cuckolds her husband and takes a lover, the Duke of Monthieu; their relationship, infused with the eroticism of art, also gives way to religion as the duke becomes ill. Written by
I invite any who see this to compare it to Novios búlgaros, Los (2003).
The stories are remarkably similar. An older man is attracted to a younger and the younger (while primarily attracted to women) is willing to be the object of adoration provided that it pays well.
In this film the older painter is taken at every opportunity by his younger model (and ward). And somehow the younger man is not painted as being a complete villain.
Also of interest to me was a minor subplot, when the famous artist is attempting to paint a princess who has commissioned a portrait the artist struggles more than he has with any other painting (The earlier paintings that we see are all of men) In this one he simply cannot get the eyes right. His young model/ward (who first came to him as an aspiring painter) makes an attempt and gets it right at his first go. Perhaps what was symbolized here was that the eyes are the windows to the soul and the famous painter (who's only attracted to men) cannot see into the souls of women while his young ward (who has slept with the woman at this point) can do so easily.
This film was remarkably well made for its day and while it does show some creaky signs of age, it is much more modern appearing than many of the films that came out of Hollywood much later.
The movie was fascinating even with no sound (which made a Swan Lake ballet sequence seem a bit weird) and the subtitles in the print I saw were in Danish (English translations were handed out before the show but did little good in a darkened theatre).
If you want to see fully one half of all gay themed films released in the 20's in one go, this may be your ticket. BTW... the other gay themed film made in the 20's Flesh and the Devil (1926) has much less gay oriented theme and is also available on VHS
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