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Elena Sofia Ricci,
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Fictionalized biopic of famed 17th century Italian painter Michelangelo Merisi de Caravaggio. As a young man, he gained the support of Cardinal Del Monte and Caravaggio proceeded to develop a new style of painting giving a more realistic view of the world in which he lived. He also begins love affairs with one of his models, Ranuccio as well as with Ranuccio's girlfriend Lena. Their relationship leads to murder and deceit. Written by
A typewriter is used, a saxophone is played, a train and steamship hooter are heard. In addition one of the characters plays with a (very advanced for the time of the movie) credit card-sized calculator with beeping buttons. These items are included deliberately as a stylistic decision of the filmmakers, not "goofs" of people unaware of the absence of these items in the 1500s and 1600s. See more »
[after being stabbed by Ranuccio Caravaggio touches the wound and blood]
[Ranucchio kisses him]
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Not great history, but intense with flashes of brilliance
Caravaggio (1986) was co-written and directed by Derek Jarman. As a biography of the great Baroque painter, this movie falls short. However, it's full of exciting events, color, and--yes--actual scenes where a painter is working at his art. Most films about artists show everything but the art. This movie brings us into the artist's studio. We see the models, we see him creating his paintings, and we see the finished results.
Caravaggio was the most gifted of the Italian Baroque painters. His artistic style influenced artists in all of Europe for generations. However, his personal life was a disaster--duels, brawls, murder, and imprisonment. He died on a barren beach, although his talent was recognized and he could have been wealthy and famous. (Because he was so talented, his patrons managed to keep him out of prison most of the time, but, after the murder, he had to leave Rome. He wandered all over Italy, and died in Naples, far from his home near Milan.)
Several caveats about the film. It's bloody, although not as gruesome as Longoni's film-- also called Caravaggio, and also reviewed by me for IMDb. There's a good deal of suggested sex, both homosexual and heterosexual. The director has chosen to add anachronisms, for reasons best know to himself. Not only are these jarring, but they are strange. If you're going to show a typewriter, why make it an old Royal manual? Bizarre.
The acting is uniformly excellent. The celebrated actor Nigel Terry plays Caravaggio, and the equally celebrated Sean Bean is his lover Ranuccio. Tilda Swinton plays Caravaggio's muse, Lena. This was Swinton's first acting role, and she is superb. Even in 1986, her androgynous persona was in place.
However, in one breathtaking scene, she has been given an elegant gown. She holds it up in front of her body, and then suddenly lets down her lovely long hair. The androgynous look vanishes instantly, and we see the extremely attractive woman emerge. That scene alone makes the film worth seeing.
I saw the movie on DVD, where it worked well enough. However, this is a film I think would do better on the large screen. Caravaggio is a brilliant, but flawed, movie. It's worth seeing if you love Caravaggio's art, as I do. It's interesting and it has flashes of brilliance. However, if you want to get a better sense of Caravaggio's life and of the milieu in which he lived, I would opt for Longoni's film. Bloodier and more violent, but without typewriters, automobiles, and cigarettes.
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