STUDIO: E1 Entertainment

MSRP: $24.98

RATED: Unrated

RUNNING TIME: 211 Minutes





The Pitch


A highly romanticized biopic of the Italian painter Caravaggio.


The Humans


– Angelo Longoni – Director

– Alessio Boni – Caravaggio

– Claire Keim – Fillide Melandroni

– Elena Sofia Ricci – Costanza Colonna

– Jordi Mollà – Cardinal Del Monte


The Nutshell


Caravaggio shows amazing skill as a painter at an early age but dreams of one day becoming a Knight Hospitaller in Malta.  He seeks fame and fortune in Rome as a painter, eventually meeting Cardinal Del Monte who helps establish him as the most famous and controversial painter in Rome.  Caravaggio draws the ire of Rome’s elite, which is not helped by his hot temper.  Trouble surrounds Caravaggio as he defies the church leaders with his paintings and clashes with pimps, ruffians, and Spaniards on the streets.


Subtitled director commentaries are the way of the future (way of the future).


The Lowdown


Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was a great 16th-17th century painter who kicked ass whenever he wasn’t painting (which was often).  He kicked so many asses that he ended up killing a guy and fled to Malta where he became a Knight Hospitaller.   He continued to kick asses, this time kicking knight ass, and was thrown out of the order.  After that he kicked the ass of a possible assassin sent after him and was finally granted a pardon for the murder he committed.  On his way back to Rome to receive said pardon, he died mysteriously (though this writer feels it was possibly from exhaustion caused by kicking ass). 


Caravaggio’s work was hugely influential in the rise of the Baroque style.  At one point Caravaggio was considered to be the most famous painter in Rome.  He also had a weird penchant for painting himself as either one of the witnesses to martyrdom or as the martyr himself (he painted his own head as the severed head of John the Baptist at one point). He’s kind of like a 16th century Mel Gibson in that regard.


Caravaggio was a drunken asshole who painted a piece or two then went on a booze and whores bender for days or weeks.  It was during these benders that he would kick all of those asses.  This movie takes the Caravaggio we know and love and portrays him as a fairly noble guy who only kicks ass out of necessity or to defend the honor of the women around him.  In doing, it kind of hamstrings itself into being less interesting than it could have been.


Few know that Spaniards originated angsty teen crazy face.


The film opens and we are introduced to a young Caravaggio who is about to be sent away to study under a master painter.  The young boy begs his mother not to send him and has a few “you don’t love me” type lines that establish what could be a good basis for his troubles with women as an adult and why he’ll only spend time with prostitutes.  Instead, this is the first instance of the movie abandoning a growing theme or storyline and moving on without looking back – it will do this again and again throughout the three and a half hour run time.


The film, which was a miniseries in Italy, has some fairly decent set design.  No doubt being an Italian production helped Caravaggio secure some good locations fairly cheap.  The streets of Rome have a bizarre claustrophobic feel to them that reminded me of an episode of Hercules, no doubt because they had very small exterior sets to work with.  The production really shines when it moves indoors, using the Italian buildings to good effect.  Light was played with a bit, but not nearly enough for a film about Caravaggio.


The effects on display were pretty bad and I tried not to hold too much against it because of its TV status.  At one point a Spaniard gets his hand cut off and grabs the obviously fake stump while it spurts blood.  The man turns left and then right, then left, and then right screaming all the while.  It was pure comedy gold.  There are some awesomely bad CGI ships near the end that seem to have no effect on the ocean around them.  Otherwise there is no noticeable CGI on display. 


I don’t know about you, but guy on girl on snake hits the spot for me.


Caravaggio is presented in Italian with English subtitles.  The subtitles in question are not subtitles, but rather closed captions for the hearing impaired.  [Bells Toll] [Mice Squeak] [Sobbing] and on and on are things that get subtitled.  As it turns out, mice sound the same in English as they do in Italian.  Rest easy, gentle reader, I played several clips multiple times just to be sure that my theory was correct.  Closed caption is fine, but in a three and a half hour endurance contest it gets annoying fast.  Speaking of sound, the score was unremarkable and overbearing at times.  Some early pieces sounded a lot like Trevor Jones’ work in Last of the Mohicans, which was a big plus, but those were few and far between.  It was GRAND EPIC MUSIC or soap opera crap.  The sound editing was passable, except for the numerous fake thunderclaps. 


Due to the language barrier, I’m not really sure how good the acting was.  When you can’t pick up on pitch and tone, line delivery is lost.  Physically, the actors did an okay job and anytime someone had to cry it felt pretty genuine.  Claire Keim mugged a lot, but that might just have been her character.  Alessio Boni (who has recently shown up in The Tourist) looks just like Caravaggio and does crazy face pretty well.  Benjamin Sadler stood out as Onorio, though I’m not sure why.  It might be because of how much he looks like Ben Foster in 3:10 To Yuma. 


There is a little bit of gore during the Inquisition subplot (that goes nowhere).  A few beheadings and the burning of a pesky philosopher at the stake punctuate the segment.  The beheadings, which were done with a large sword that made a dull “thunk” sound, were enjoyable but not enough to please a gore hound.  While there isn’t much gore, there are tits a plenty in this movie.  If you judge movies based on how many sets of natural tits are in the film, this one is for you; if you judge it on plot and characters, not so much.


There is an early scene of the plague, complete with plague doctors (which were quite cool), where our young Caravaggio sees a black rider on a black horse.  This is important, it seems, since he is haunted by that vision for the rest of the movie.  Near the end of the film Caravaggio is racing to get his paintings back while a friend is racing to save him (because he’s sick; he’s sick for nearly a third of the film though, so this last illness was only remarkable because of how alarmed his friend was).  Our hero is nearly at his destination when we finally get some pay off from the black rider flashes throughout the film.  As some fishermen toss Caravaggio out of a boat we discover that the black rider is Death (maybe that was more obvious to Italians and I’m too accustomed to scythes and skeleton hands).  Death limply chases Caravaggio down the beach.  Caravaggio falls into the surf. Caravaggio dies and then the movie, much like this review, abruptly ends.  Plots, subplots, all that nonsense is left unresolved; our journey ends along with Caravaggio’s own and it feels very out of left field.


Before you die, you see The Ring.


The Package


The box art is nice, though not great.  The movie is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen with Dolby Digital.  The picture is good, but not the best you’ll see.  All in all, this was a perfectly mediocre movie, not bad enough to be bad, not great enough to be good.  If you are dying to see a film about Caravaggio, see the Jarman masterpiece.  If you are dying to see a biopic on Caravaggio without the Jarman flair, this will satiate your really bizarre desire.




5 out of 10