The tumultuous and adventurous life of Michelangelo Merisi, controversial artist, called by Fate to become the immortal Caravaggio. A violent genius that will dare to defy the ideal vision ...
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Miguel Ángel Silvestre,
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J.S. Bach, orphaned at 10, widowed at 35, 20 children, regarded as the world's greatest composer, challenged the conventions of church, state and society by expressing personal tragedy and hardship with passion, joy and conviction.
The tumultuous and adventurous life of Michelangelo Merisi, controversial artist, called by Fate to become the immortal Caravaggio. A violent genius that will dare to defy the ideal vision of the world imposed by the Renaissance painters. A provoker that scandalized patrons and institutions, raising the altars the outcast figures he knew so well: drunkards, vagrants and prostitutes. Written by
Strong, long, sincere, slightly sexed up Caravaggio!
This is a compelling, fairly realistic view of the great artist's life. It's a little long, has some emphasis on relationships and sex which are completely made up, and of course it simplifies his work and how it was made, but it's an Italian production shot in Italy, which gives at least that much authenticity. It is made for television originally, but with high standards (and widescreen format) as with many more recent t.v. productions. Alessio Boni plays the adult artist wonderfully.
Films about artists have to balance between telling the story known through their art and trying to make them human through the people around them. For Caravaggio this means emphasizing his attention to every detail in life, never idealizing his subjects. It also means he's a great protector of women (not known historically) and a total wild fighter, constantly getting tino brawls and sword fights (very much known). His art faced many critics, which are shown here, but he was also hugely admired by many of his contemporary painters, and this isn't so well implied (though he has a few patrons along the way)
His career was short, so we see him getting started in Milan, moving to Rome, then hopping from place to place, partly to avoid going to jail for his various fights (including at least one killing). In all it's a gritty, often bloody experience, probably not so far from the truth, but it flavors the movie straight through. He has such talent, you somehow overlook his violent nature and wish life had treated him better. He died largely of his poor health, and though he was just a few years earlier the most famous painter in Rome, he was soon forgotten. The year was 1610, just as Shakespeare was finishing his last plays and Rembrandt was four years old. It's odd that the movie chose to make an allegory of his death when Caravaggio avoided allegory in his work so thoroughly.
Now we are in a Caravaggio mania, partly leading to this movie, no doubt, and earlier to the more imaginative and yet less watchable Derek Jarman 1986 version. If its his art you want to see, you have to go to Italy. But the movie makes a reasonable entry into his life. As a movie beyond the man, standing alone, it is overly long (3 ½ hours) and filled with details that might not be commanding if it weren't for his fame. But what it gets right is right enough, and the work is unparalleled.
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