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BFI 100: 93 – Caravaggio (1986)

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Here, we further the ill-fated and resurrected journey of watching each of the British Film Institute’s 100 best films of the 20th Century. Starting at 100 and working my way to Orson Welles’ The Third Man at number 1. This week, Derek Jarman’s Caravaggio from 1986. I’ll try to keep these short updates relatively spoiler-free and consider them only a small record of moving through this series.

© Cinevista

While not the first time that I’ve watched this trippy, surreal fictionalised telling of the life of Caravaggio, it was definitely the best. Each time I watch, however, it gets better and better. With an absurd cast featuring Nigel Terry, Sean Bean, Tilda Swinton, and Press Gang‘s Dexter Fletcher, it is packed tight with talent and performance. Jarman makes the journey through the artist’s life feel like a strange and drug-induced rollercoaster ride. In an allusion to Caravaggio’s own penchant for anachronism, the director includes several of his own, including car horns, electric lights, and typewriters in the film, yet the film is at its most beautiful when Jarman recreates stunning live representations of Caravaggio’s paintings. Eye-catching and at times breathtaking. Coming hot on the heels of a terrible film at number 94, this movie was much needed.


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