[Last Film I Saw] Sebastiane (1976)

Title: Sebastiane
Year: 1976
Country: UK
Language: Latin
Genre: Drama, History
Paul Humfress
Derek Jarman
Paul Humfress
Derek Jarman
Jack Welch
James Whaley
Leonardo Treviglio
Barney James
Neil Kennedy
Richard Warwick
Janusz Romanov
Ken Hicks
Donald Dunham
Daevid Finbar
Steffano Massari
Lindsay Kemp
Rating: 4.4/10

My second film of Derek Jarman, his feature-length debut co-directed with Paul Humfress, it was quite a talking-point and a rousing art film in light of firstly, it speaks entirely in Latin and secondly, the interpretation of the anecdote of Saint Sebastiane was quite a stir and prompted some severe controversy at the time when it being released owing to a blatant male nudity exposure, and it brazenly features many homo-erotic scenes. And afterward, the film’s notoriety has never ceased to prevail, especially considering the untimely decease of Derek Jarman.

In my instant response, with its gritty fibre, the film bears a resemblance of a dated pornography, an astonishing gambit is the opening dancing sequence of Lindsay Kemp with his troupe, which is both campy and filthy. Soon the film takes a prompt locale changeover to an arid desert where Sebastiane and other soldiers are being exiled, with a non-female premise, the masculinity carries the day, the camera lingers on the sinewy male bodies restlessly (not only Sebastiane, other soldiers are all model-designed male mannequins, maybe an OTT Neil Kennedy could not excluded by a strict criterion), slow-motions are strenuously pressed into service while two soldiers passionately caressing each other in the water. By contrast, the actors are plain numb and wooden, better serving as statues than line-readers which as if the lines are beyond their comprehension, actually the use of Latin is a ballyhoo to the max.

For me Derek Jarman has so far become an odd number to appreciate, after a throbbing viewing of CARAVAGGIO(1986), regrettably, SEBASTIANE backfires much stronger than I would expect, a low 4 out of 10 bursts out of my heart without any wavering, even Brian Eno cannot save it this time.


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