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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 »
This is not a mainstream movie. You may be very distracted by the presence of jokey 20th century anachronisms in this otherwise grave movie about the artistic genius, Caravaggio. 17th century merchants use hand-held calculators, modern instruments play at the parties, local scribes use typewriters, servants dress in modern dinner jackets. I sure don't know what it all means. I guess you can impute many meanings to it.
You may also be irritated by the director in his insistence that everyone is motivated by homoerotic impulses. This facet of the presentation is really more about Derek Jarman than Caravaggio.
Well, I'm not sure that the movie has much to say about Caravaggio at all. After all, Caravaggio shocked his era with his revisionist hagiography - saints with peasant faces, torn clothes and dirty fingernails - probably realistic but iconoclastic in its time, and contrary to a century of previous tradition. Moreover, Caravaggio almost invented the modern system of a consistently represented light source, showing the actual impact of light on his subjects. These key points are barely touched by the script.
But I think you probably should just let those irritations wash over you, and accept the movie for what it is. It uses the style and mood of his paintings to reflect his life, and it incorporates that precise aesthetic into the movie's own visuals. The movie looks like what Caravaggio's own moving pictures might have looked like if he could have created them in 1600.
Is it a good movie? Who knows? It's not so well remembered after a decade or so, but it exhibits a memorable gift for creating and sustaining a mood, and for breathing life into Caravaggio's canvases. It also speculates about the everyday life that must have circulated around the creation of those masterpieces.
I was willing to forgive a lot of artistic pretension and rhetorical dialogue for the superb visuals and atmosphere, and I took vivid memories away from the film. You may feel the same way.
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