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Five Men and a Caravaggio

Acclaimed writer and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo delivers another deeply intelligent and idiosyncratic essay, located between contemporary China and post-Brexit referendum London.

Dir-Scr Xiaolu Guo
Prod Xiaolu Guo, Stephen Barker
With Vanni Bianconi, Chen Ming, Simon de Reyer
UK-China
2018
74min
Prod Co Xiaolu Guo Films
Subtitles

Inspired by Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Guo opens her film in Southern China where an artisan undertakes a painstaking reproduction of Caravaggio’s ‘Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness’. In Hackney, an Italian poet is given the painting for his 40th birthday. Its depiction of the youthful wanderer triggers nostalgia in the poet, but he fears the reproduction does not capture the essence of the original. With these elements, Guo delivers a rich treatise on reproduction, regeneration and the flow of capital. This searching film, unfolding in the summer following the Brexit vote, is both a tribute to the intellectual migrants who have made their local neighbourhood their home and an examination of the universally human urges to both wander and take root.

Jemma Desai

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