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SEBASTIANE (director: Derek Jarman/Paul Humfress; screenwriter: James Whaley/Derek Jarman; cinematographer: Peter Middleton; editor: Paul Humfress; music: Brian Eno; cast: Leonardo Trevigilo (Sebastian), Barney James (Severus), Neil Kennedy (Maximus), Richard Warwick (Justin), Donald Dunham (Claudius), Robert Medley (Emperor Diocletian); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: X; producers: Howard Malin/James Whaley; Kino; 1976-UK-in Latin with English subtitles)

Aone of a kind film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The semi-improvised and spoken in vulgar Latin film about the martyrdom of St. Sebastiane some 1,700 years ago, pays homage to the beauty of the nude male and the triumph of the spirit over earthly desires. The directorial film debut of Derek Jarman (“Caravaggio”/”War Requiem”/”Wittgenstein“), the former set director for Ken Russell’s “The Devils,”is anauspicious and over-the-top one and results in a one of a kind film that brings out in the open the homoeroticism Hollywood biblical epic films sometimes teased us with but never openly delivered in the manner of this impactful indie feature.Another Englishman, Paul Humfress, is credited with being co-director; while it’s co-written by Jarman and James Whaley. It reportedly was the first British film to deal openly with homosexual lust.

In 303 AD., the captain of the Roman Palace Guards, Sebastiane (Leonardo Trevigilo), a favorite of the Emperor Diocletian (Robert Medley), is suspected of being a Christian and since the emperor believes the Christians set fires in Rome, he strips Sebastiane of his rank and banishes him to a remote outpost in Sardinia with other exiled soldiers. The commanding officer Severus (Barney James) lusts after the brooding Sebastiane, who in the strong desert sun is becoming more mystical, more filled with homoerotic thoughts, more pure, and more aloof from the other bored but playful soldiers by refusing to take part in the gladiator exercises and their homosexual affairs. When Severus’s sexual advances are rejected and the smitten pagan centurion is called impotent by Sebastiane, the angry rejected one orders his execution by arrows shot in every part of his body by every soldier on the post.

The struggling saint found his strength to live the Christian trip as a masochist like Jesus, as the soft-core gay porn film, earning an X rating for its nudity and homosexual trysts among the soldiers, goes beyond the flesh to say something relevant about being a Christian saint that reveals the filmmaker’s sense of parody about sainthood.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”