Derek Jarman struggled for seven years to bring his portrait of the great Renaissance painter Michelangelo Caravaggio to the screen, producing a critically acclaimed masterwork and a powerful meditation on sexuality, criminality, and art.
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Jarman's biography of the painter may be him most accessible film in the sense that it has a fairly straightforward narrative stream to it, even though it's style is quite avant-garde. Nigel Terry stars as the volatile painter, who's drinking, fighting and whoring ways puts him at odds with the Church while his magnificent detailed religious paintings were in demand.
The only possible explanation: Derek Jarman actually went to Magic Film School, where he majored in Cinematic Alchemy; this is the result of his thesis project - "The Transmutation of £450,000 Worth of Standard Elements of Film into Something Entirely Sublime". 5 stars only because there aren't more to click.
Derek Jarman does anachronisms better than Julie Taymor. The way the surrealism sneaks in the film rather than beating the audience into it the world is thrilling! I felt seduced into this troubling world. Really, the entire movie felt like it was hitting on me. Great movie for the lonely.
The most splendid biopic I've ever seen. Extremely beautiful, poetic and inspired, it strikes you with its light and coulours, plays of shades and tints as if Jarman were not a filmmaker, but a real artist who paints right on the film. Loved that post-modernist trick - anachronisms - which transforms the being of the XVII century Italian artist into a lifehistory of a modern bohemian from today's London.
A series of luminous impressions; it hardly sticks to the chronology of the great man's life for it to be a biopic, and Terry is too reflective for it to feel like a meticulous character study. Yet in those impressions it captures so much of the beauty of his work, the bathetic tumult that rode alongside his genius, and the regret he must have felt at the end. The sadness and Caravaggio's paintings will last forever.
Possibly the best entry point for Jarman's film work, this is a beautifully realised fresco that avoids much of the usual 'life of an artist' clutter and cliche that sink other works. Despite this the iconoclasm can grate at points.