April 12, 2006
Ye Olde World Filthe
The film is called Libertine and it serves as the latest vehicle for Johnny Depp's apparently boundless talents. He truly is an amazing actor. I can't believe the Oscar has passed him by — he's thrilled audiences with so many achievements on film. It's early days yet, but the Academy will surely nominate him again for his work here. The role he takes on with such ardor is that of the notorious John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester. What a piece of work he was! Depp tears into the part voraciously and he chews up the scenery to the delight of anyone who can get through the putrefaction that
was ever present in 17th century England. If we could travel back in time, we'd need a space suit to actually walk around amidst the germs of our ancestor's cruddy lifestyles. In a word — "yuck!"
Atheist, bisexual, and wildly lascivious, Wilmot was the Bad Boy of the randy court of Charles II. This king is worthy of a film of his own — the closest Hollywood has ever come is a 1940s Technicolor spectacle Forever Amber starring Linda Darnell. The late George Sanders (who left a suicide note citing boredom as the reason for his departure) stole the show as The Merry Monarch. The appellation was given to Charles II by his own subjects, and let me assure you — he earned the nickname. His entire life was quite the tableau. Son of Charles I, the only British monarch ever to be overthrown and beheaded, his early adventures as Bonnie Prince Charlie (on the run from Oliver Cromwell's Puritans) are still evident to tourists from France to Scotland to Ireland. He slept behind a hidden bookcase, he hid in an ancient tree, he disguised himself as a barmaid in yonder pub. By the time of his Restoration, he was quite the rake. Look at any of his official portraits and you'll immediately see the original "Goodtime Charley." *Note to dog lovers: he was the premier breeder of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
He and John Wilmot had a love/hate relationship of truly royal proportions.
The 2nd Earl of Rochester inherited his title from a father who was a valiant Royalist and battlefield hero. Sonny's 33 years were spent enjoying the perks and privileges of nobility, but performing none of the valiant services to King or Country. His marriage to a wealthy wife only increased his appetites elsewhere and his debauchery is legendary. You can think of him as a kind of English Marquis DeSade. He established a "Merry Gang" three hundred years ahead of our "Rat Pack." He wrote it all down to the delight of his contemporaries and the voyeuristic prurience of readers ever since. It has been said that "his verses cut and sparkle like diamonds" while "his contempt for everything others respect amounts to sublimity." You can just imagine, huh?
Johnny Depp's portrayal takes you on the entire ride, and it fascinates as well as disgusts. Highlights include the Earl's decrepit appearance before Parliament, eaten away by syphilis, plastered in chalky make-up to cover the pustules, and sporting a fake silver nose. This image speaks volumes about the madness of extreme wealth turned to perversion: you can't just walk into a store and buy one of those off the rack! Banished by the King, he set up shop as "Doctor Bendo" peddling quackery, cures for impotence, and sexual surrogacy. His death is laborious and disgusting — by the time he kicks the bucket you're oh-so ready to say goodbye. You flash back to the worst images of the AIDS victims of the early 1980s, dying without any medical intervention. The murky lighting and imagery of the entire film cast a decaying atmosphere throughout. GayView has a hard time recommending this picture to a wide audience, but it's a must see for Depp fans, history buffs, and those who like to test their fortitude. It does its job so well, you can't wait to get home and jump in the shower.