Caravaggio’s Shadow (2022)

January 1st, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Michele Placido | Cast: Riccardo Scamarcio, Isabelle Huppert, Louis Garrel, Lolita Chammah, Micaela Ramazzotti | Drama 120′

Riccardo Scamarcio hogs the limelight as the painter Caravaggio, aka Michelangelo Merisi (1571-1610), in this visceral epic that glows like one of the painter’s original masterpieces in this imagined drama from Michele Placido.

Accused of murder in 1609 the maverick painter flees the depraved bacchanalian world of 17th century Rome but is unable to escape the clutches of Louis Garrel’s inquisitorial Catholic investigator Ombra (a fictitious character) or the lustful advances of Isabelle’s Huppert’s Marchesa Costanza Sforza Colonna whose family offers him sanctuary in Naples while urging the Pope to offer clemency until Caravaggio’s suspicious death in Porto Ercole the following year.

Scamarcio gives an incendiary performance as the legendary ‘bad boy’ who purportedly loved young boys as much as beautiful women, and whose talent for taking outcasts and sinners and transforming them on the canvas into saints and madonnas is almost eclipsed by his salacious lifestyle.  

Caravaggio has long captured the imagination of art lovers and world specialists – such as Andrew Graham Dixon – and Placido’s ambitious art thriller certainly evokes the savage mystery of the era with stunning set pieces, an emotive original score and Michele D’Attanasio’s painterly camerawork although it often feels like the script, co-written with Sandro Petraglia and Fidel Signorile, overelaborates the sensationalism at the expense of historical facts.

Caravaggio’s talent as the era’s most spectacular painter elevates him into the realms of superstardom while he himself remains a grounded character despite his undeniable genius. Scamarcio really brings out the humanity in the painter and his vulnerability as an artist and convinces us of his efforts and his subsequent failure to rise above the negative impact of the nefarious characters surrounding him. This thrilling expose of the life and times of a legendary and revolutionary artist is lusciously mounted entertainment on a grand scale. MT



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