You might think that a film such as Farinelli (1994), featuring a gorgeous male lead, placed in a sumptuous 18th-century world of sexy sexiness and set to fabulous classical music, would have been something I would have watched decades ago. You’d be surprised, however, that though I have known about this film since it first came out ahem 21 years ago, that I have never actually watched it until just now. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I was a Farinelli virgin for far too long. Shoulda popped that cherry ages ago.
And how was this orgiastic feast for the eyes and ears? Well…
It was okay.
Perhaps, over the years, I had built this film up into something far greater in my imagination than it could have ever been in real life. Maybe it was the fact that right around the same time the film came out, I had read A Cry to Heaven by Anne Rice, whose hero was loosely based on Carlo Broschi, and it spoiled me a bit. That book had insane amounts of passion and sex like only Anne Rice could deliver. In my head, I wanted Farinelli to match that swirling, seething world of sumptuousness and carnality, wrapped up in fine silk with a soundtrack of the greatest hits of the 18th century. Perhaps my expectations of this particular lover were too great, because wow, for all the sex in this film, it was some of the least passionate love-making I’ve seen since the time I last slept with my ex-boyfriend.
Stefano Dionisi is downright beautiful as Carlo, but despite the pretty façade, there’s not much really going on there. He’s supposed to be tortured by the fact that he was castrated (allegedly by an accidental fall from a horse when he was a child), but despite that, he has no trouble satisfying scores of women, letting his brother Riccardo (Enrico Lo Verso) swoop in to provide the symbolic ejaculatory event that he cannot. Obviously, he’s doing a favor to his less-handsome brother out of some weird pact they have to share everything in their lives, from music to women. Riccardo clearly thinks this arrangement is the bomb and is more than happy to get all the sloppy seconds in the world, probably because it would smack of effort if he had to bed a woman using his own skills.
Let’s just stop for a second and appreciate the portraits of the real Carlo and Riccardo.
Anyway, everyone wants to fuck Farinelli, and who is Farinelli to deny them all? Even Handel, played by veteran actor Jeroen Krabbé, has some kind of weird homoerotic thing for the castrato that results in some kind of bizarre competition between the two men as they stalk one another, refusing the give the other what he desires. Still, none of this was titillating, or even mildly sexy … It all just came across as though the actors couldn’t be bothered.
As for the costumes … also, meh. While the film delivered a nice richness and depth to the sets that felt weighted down with an appropriate amount of silk brocade and bullion fringe, the costumes were just underwhelming. The fact that the director used quite a lot of tight shots on the actors’ faces didn’t help, because I guess some people watch a costume flick for the faces? The opera costumes were by far the most interesting costumes in the film, but none of the women had anything on that was particularly worth noting. And the men all mostly wore dark frock coats without a lot of trim or embroidery. One exception was the Prince of Wales, who had a fabulous wig and a pretty flashy outfit.
Which brings me to the subject of hair. Note: I am not the wig expert here at Frock Flicks, but regardless, the hair in this film was split 50/50 between “Mid-1990s Sexy Mullet” and “All Over the Map 18th-Century Wigs.” The women’s hair seemed to waver between “Sort of Right for the Mid-18th-Century” and “Ms. Frizzle Goes to Versailles.”
Anyway, it’s not a bad film, but it just failed to send me over the falls, if you will. Like a mediocre lover, it’s all hype and no substance.