Friday, 23 January 2009

The Libertine

My film still seems to evade local audiences here having recently been knocked back by the MQFF but that's part and parcel of not having much sync with this country's cultural affairs, however, submissions continue to role out and we'll see where and when it shall screen next.

My next post shall endeavor to have much about censorship issues not only here in Oz but also in the UK where a new anti-pornography bill has been passed, the climate is becoming particularly stifled of late and I'm thinking movements meant to crumble all the work of the Renaissance and other eras are slowly beginning to march across the ideals of individual freedoms and expressions, with the aim to lock into towers the agents of progressive thought and philosophy. We are possibly heading for dark times.

But firstly as an appetizer, my review of The Libertine.

"There's something generous in mere lust.
But to turn damned abandoned jade
When neither head nor tail persuade -
To be a whore in understanding
A passive pot for fools to spend in!
The devil played booty, sure, with thee
to bring a blot on infamy."

John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester



"You will not like me" is how The Libertine begins, with John Wilmot (Johnny Depp) shrouded in candle light ... but how can any one not like The Earl of Rochester, in the same sense that Lord Byron had his faults but by default of uniqueness enriched our culture as martyrs to life itself.

The film also stars John Malkovich as King Charles II and also appearing in the film is Rupert Friend (Billy Downs) as Johnny's young man lover, The Earl of Rochester was more than bisexual, he was simply just "sexual". There are many dandies of this period who through the pen exercised the "demons" of their depravity. Notables like the Count d'Orsay, Nicolas Restif de la Bretonne, Lord Byron, and the Marquis de Sade.

Directed by Laurence Dunmore and the screenplay written by Stephen Jeffreys, this appears to be their only work. Laurence has a background in graphic design and I was trying to figure out if this has had some influence on the film but it didn't seem so as the film is scarcely made up at all, relying on quite murky elements and cedar wood dust to cloak its realism. John Malkovich had wanted to make The Libertine since 1994, and he was the instigator behind getting it started.

Michael Nyman's soundtrack is of course exceptional, I don't know what it is with Michael, but in his later years he could have been the mastermind behind all The Beatles stringed sections, so soaring and wispy is his work. The editing was done by Melbourne's Jill Bilcock who is an editor behind many successful Australian movies.

But key figures aside, apart from Johnny Depp whose performance is quite remarkable, it was cheeky on many levels and suitably detached, self centered, very suitable to The Earl of Rochester.

The Libertine could have been more smutty, perhaps should have been more smutty but you get good verse from John Wilmot through-out, especially "A ramble in St Jame's park", which is somewhat edited and only one stanza but none the less well placed.

Why are people like The Earl of Rochester so important? Well, because mediocrity is rife, and philosophy has been thrown to the pigeons. How cultures celebrate their individuals is essential to our ongoing treatment of the individual, take for instance the prolific Nicolas Restif de la Bretonne, in France there is a sculpture of him in Auxerre. In some countries it would be inconceivable to celebrate a pornographic printer in this way, I have posted a picture of the statue below.



Nicolas Restif de la Bretonne in Auxerre.

In most places you'd find some political leader or sportsman but free thinking nations can understand better what the human race is about instead of creating a facade of respectability in order to align the consciousness of its people with the sum of a conservative few.

In any case, I am drifting from my review of The Libertine. The feel of the film is bawdy and moody, and its execution of the more depraved aspect could have been written into more but I felt it was enough as an introduction to John Wilmot, but don't forget after watching it to hunt down the Earl's verse and deepen your understanding of his thoughts and ideals, it will make watching the film a second time around all that more pleasurable.

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