The Libertine (2004)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):   BBBB

United Kingdom/Australia, 2004.  , , , , .  Screenplay by , based on his play.  Cinematography by .  Produced by , , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Exciting drama based on the play by Stephen Jeffreys (who also wrote the witty screenplay) about the real-life Earl Of Rochester (aka John Wilton) who was famed for his sharp-tongued appreciation of high life. is astounding as the Earl, a man who was the constant vexation of King Charles II (John Malkovich, who played the lead role on stage and produced this version) for his fearlessly public behaviour. The Earl all but abandons his faithful wife () for loose women (and sometimes men), until he falls in love with a moderately successful actress (the always mesmerizing Samantha Morton) and vows to turn her into a huge star. The plotting of this gorgeously photographed film has no direct purpose, rather wandering aimlessly through the Earl’s short life until his death by syphilis in his early thirties, but wisely chooses to focus on the character’s personality and never tests its audience’s patience. The other wise decision is having an actor of this calibre playing the lead, for without Depp the film would come dangerously close to being unforgivably messy. The excellent costumes and sets are by Dien Van Straalen and Ben Van Os, the team responsible for the beautiful period recreation of Girl With A Pearl Earring; in an attempt to recreate the look of the seventeenth century, the whole thing looks like it was lit by three candles, and is only more seductive because of it.

Toronto International Film Festival:  2004

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