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Klemm Posted online, February, The late artist, Derek Jarman, is famed for his many provocative, controversial and confrontational contributions to modern queer cinema. Jarman left behind a large body of work which, along with his art, his books and his films, also includes videos for The Smiths and The Pet Shop Boys. Always the champion of gay rights, the anger in his cinema grew more evident after he made public his diagnosis with AIDS in He succumbed to the disease in , his last film being the somber and reflective Blue Nowhere is this more apparent than in his first feature film, co-directed with Paul Humfress, Sebastiane Depictions of the martyrdom of St.
Sebastian are the most homoerotic images in all of Christian art. Sebastian has often been called the first gay icon. He is usually painted in a pose of submission, hands tied behind his back, or over his head, to a pole or a tree, wearing nothing but a loin cloth. His body is pierced with symbolic penetrating arrows and his expression is rapturous as he seems to bask in the pleasures of his own martyrdom.
He is always young and muscular and beautiful. It is a historical costume drama that is, when the actors are wearing clothes , a meditation on faith and a celebration of the male physique with a major focus on the homoerotic horseplay between hypermasculine Roman soldiers. Parts of the film, the opening scene particulary, can also be enjoyed as camp They greet at the banquet with a very sensual kiss on the mouth.
Exiled from Rome, Sebastian practices pointless daily maneuvers with his fellow soldiers at a remote outpost under the ever-watchful eyes of Severus, their Captain. Sebastian is tied to a post and shot with arrows to fulfill his iconic martyrdom. The film deviates from the established canon. In the traditional story, St.
Calling the movie "daring" is, of course, an understatement. Let me be clear that Sebastiane is not porn but I would be hard pressed to think of another feature film that contains as much male frontal nudity as this one.
Novels of the Napoleonic Era
They practice sword fighting, they wrestle, they bathe, they engage in all sorts of erotic horseplay. There is a long sensual interlude between two beautiful men named Anthony and Adrian, some of it in slow motion, that lasts for almost seven minutes. Their kisses, in tight close-up, are the sexiest I have ever seen in any movie. Yet none of this seems gratuitous. The camaraderie between these men is very believable.
Their scenes display a gritty realism that is light years ahead of those cheesy Sword and Sandal epics that proliferated in the late 50s and early 60s, not to mention the unintentional camp of Cecil B. Despite a low budget, Sebastiane is filmed with an eye towards the painterly image.
Matthew and Oedipus Rex Fellini, on the other hand, once famously said that he had to cast American actors as the leads in his Satyricon because "there are no homosexuals in Italy.
Christianity becomes a substitute for homosexuality; Max Neil Kennedy , the most rugged and swaggeringly macho of the soldiers, harasses Sebastian for his religious beliefs and it would be easy to re-cast him in the role of a gay basher in a more contemporary film. Anthony and Adrian Janusz Romanov and Ken Hicks are gently teased for their affections towards each other yet their proclivities are seen as neither feminine nor as signs of weakness.
The soldiers are obsessed with their penises. Max is fond of dancing around sporting a golden phallic codpiece; he will wear it proudly when he shoots his arrow at Sebastian. His superior, Severus, doubles as the sadistic Master at Arms, John Claggart, whose hatred for Budd was a mask for his forbidden desire. Severus is clearly aroused by Sebastian, as is apparent in a lengthy early interlude in which he watches from a distance as the young man bathes.
When Sebastian throws down his arms and refuses to fight, Severus has him whipped - the first of several sado-masochistic scenes that break the otherwise idyllic air.
Some of these scenes are a bit rough. He takes me in his arm and caresses my bleeding body. I want to be with him. A few paragraphs back, I referenced DeMille and Fellini. Jarman adds a very funny scene, rife with cinematic in-jokes, in which Max longs for the good old days when Christians were thrown to the lions, the Coliseum hosted the chariot races of "Cecilli Mille, the director from Silva Sacra" and "Philistini scoured all the brothels of Rome Sebastiane defies description, it just has to be experienced.
The music is effective but used sparingly; oftentimes there is only the sound of wind in the background. I offer this as a lesson to the many modern queer filmmakers who insist on using bad, and inappropriate, music and lame pop songs in their movies.
Consider the simple beauty of silence as an aesthetic choice.
Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields: California: San Luis Obispo area
Jarman has both his admirers and his detractors. Sebastiane actually did surprisingly well in London art house theaters but it has always been at the center of controversy. His politics and his outspoken AIDS activism would contribute to a lifelong notoriety. Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was an Italian painter, widely recognized as the first great Baroque artist.
He was a notorious street brawler and often fell afoul with the law; he even killed a man once. It is, to many, a cult classic. For the next few years, Jarman dabbled in experimental shorts before returning to the feature format in with The Angelic Conversation.
The long germinating Caravaggio bore fruit in Jarman has written that his portrait is "based on a reading of the paintings. One of the first shows him as an adolescent being rescued from a life of street painting and hustling by his lifelong patron, Cardinal Del Monte.
His sporadic memories lead the viewer through a streams of disconnected sketches A love triangle dominates his thoughts. This triad consists of himself, a feral streetfighter named Ranuccio a very young Sean Bean and his mistress, the prostitute Lena Tilda Swinton in her first film appearance. Both will serve as models for his best known canvasses. To symbolize their complicated relationship, Jarman often photographs the trio in triangular compositions.
Both Caravaggio and Ranuccio are violent men yet a strange bond grows between them. A shirtless brawl ends with Ranuccio deliberately cutting Caravaggio with a knife. The arts patron wanted a gay filmmaker to realize his pet film project about Caravaggio and his dreams of working with Pasolini were dashed when the controversial director was brutally murdered by a hustler in Upon seeing Sebastiane, Ward-Jackson deemed Jarman to be a suitable replacement.
Jarman was once again intrigued by the idea of juxtaposing the sacred and the profane. Prior knowledge of the artist is almost a prerequisite and impatient viewers will probably find Caravaggio chaotic. At the same time, it is also a far cry from a stuffy and schlocky Hollywood bio-pic like The Agony and the Ecstasy with Charlton Heston as Michelangelo.
Art Director Christopher Hobbs did a magnificent job painting the full sized Caravaggio copies - both finished and in-progress.
How about Ranuccio posing almost naked with a sword? The artist handles him roughly as he positions the arm and the shoulder and then, from his easel, throws gold coins to his model - who suggestively inserts the coins into his mouth. Later, following the foreplay of their knife brawl, they kiss ferociously and Lena angrily accuses her man of being a "rent boy. These jarring elements blur the present and the past. The best example of this unconventional method which also manages at the same time to reference and parody two well known iconic images involves a snooty art critic.
The double reference also makes explicit a link between the canvas and cinema. Jarman the artist is having a lot of visual fun in his film. He even begins it with a hand painting one coat of black paint after another across the screen, in opposite directions, behind the opening credits.
This gala, with jazz music in the background, in set in the catacombs. Everyone who is anybody in Rome is there, including the Pope. A daffy society lady, when introduced to Michelangelo Caravaggio, exclaims "Michelangelo! The art critic calls it ugly but loves the frame.
Caravaggio and Ranuccio steal a kiss in the tombs. In private, he pulls off his fake moustache "The agonies of fashion," he moans , kisses her feet, and calls her "Madonna, Queen of Heaven. The widespread corruption of the period is well known. One of the family" and then remarks that "Revolutionary gestures in art can be a great help to us.
Keeps the quo in the status. While much of Caravaggio is fiction, much of it is suggested by historical facts. Caravaggio did, indeed, paint a well known prostitute as the Virgin Mary. The signature reads "I Caravaggio did this" and Jarman read this as a coded confession of murder. The three lead actors are superb. Even dressed in rags, Tilda Swinton is radiant in her screen debut. Sean Bean is the embodiment of rough trade sexy; young, handsome and dangerous.
It is important that Jarman had crafted a portrait of the artist with his queerness intact; this was hardly commonplace in In his own words, Jarman shared with Caravaggio a desire to "knock the saints out of the sky.
Though hardly an in-depth character study, it hardly matters. This is a film where the visuals tell the story and Caravaggio is a feast for the eyes.
New meanings unfold with each subsequent viewing. AIDS would increase his activism and his films grew angrier and more political. It mixed religious iconography with the story of two gay lovers cast from Eden when they are arrested, tortured and eventually killed.
It is worth noting here that Marlow, like Jarman and also Caravaggio , was a notorious "bad boy" artist in his day.