9 March 2018



'Now I can die in peace, for I have seen true love.'
Claude Zoret.

'Nobody knows how lonely I am.'
Claude Zoret.

'Jules my friend, you must not cry for me. I'm going to a place where my heart will find peace.'
Claude Zoret to his faithful old servant.

'I'm tired of being your model, the tool for your game!'

'A market can be lukewarm, and a market can be hot.'
The art-dealer, LeBlanc.

'That is a man who has lost everything.'

During the night, the Master was to meet his destiny...

This silent movie from Germany is a gorgeous film to look at, sumptuous, decadently luxurious and darkly mysterious, but the story itself is so sad. Which suits me perfectly, lol, because I love a good miserable time when it comes to books or films and would value that more highly than a so-called 'good laugh.' My friends find this eccentric of me, but I like that they think that. It pleases me. I'd always rather be different than not, if you get me.

MICHAEL is the story of a famous and distinguished-looking artist called M. Claude Zoret, who uses as his model a young man called Michael. Michael is also his lover and, though you certainly don't see them having sex or anything, there's no real attempt made to hide the fact that is a film about a homosexual relationship.

I was surprised but pleased by this openness. It was pretty brave of Dreyer to make this film only a couple of decades after poor old Oscar Wilde had languished in prison for the crime of simply being differently wired to other people. Okay, so it was a different country, but still. Very progressive film for the era, this one.

Speaking of Oscar Wilde, the relationship between Zoret and Michael reminded me very much of Wilde and things I'd read about his younger lover Bosie. Michael is handsome, certainly, like Bosie, but has been spoiled rotten by his benevolent older benefactor and so his character is weak and wilful. Zoret pays Michael's bills for him and bails him out of financial difficulties at least once that we know of, but probably more often than that, being realistic.

Into Zoret's and Michael's cosy little set-up comes the stunningly beautiful Countess Zamikow. Beautiful she may be, and she is, but she's also down on her luck. Impoverished, strapped for cash, on her uppers, brassic. And conniving with it, conniving and greedy and grasping.

She wants to be painted by the Master, Zoret, in the hope that it would increase her social standing and have the knock-on effect of improving her shabby finances also. Maybe she could nab herself a husband and another title, one that comes with money, for a start. Sort of like Instagram for the old days, then. Have your piccy taken with or by a celebrity and find yourself suddenly climbing the ladder of social acceptance. Meh. Whatevs...!

Zoret, finding the Countess undeniably easy on the peepers, agrees to paint her. She gets treated to a lot of free meals while the sittings are ongoing, which presumably helps to ease her monetary worries a little. Marrying the rich artist Zoret would ease them even further (did I mention that she was a conniving little hussy?), but Zoret, as we already know, doesn't swing that way. 

The painting turns out marvellously, of course, except for one thing. Zoret's not happy about the eyes. He feels he hasn't correctly captured the look in them. He asks Michael to have a bash at them. Michael obliges, and hey presto! Whaddya think happens? 

The reviews (Olde-Timey ones in the newspaper, not online like this one, haha) of the painting praise only the eyes. Apparently only the eyes are worthy of praise. What a punch in the gut for Zoret. What a frightful kick in the knickers. If only that was all he had to worry about, the poor bastard...

Things only go downhill for poor old Zoret from here. His young lover is about to fall head-over-heels in love with the beautiful Countess, who reciprocates. It was inevitable. When there was nothing doing with the famous artist, the lady turns her attentions to the younger man.

But is Michael not really gay then, or was he only gay for pay? I think he's bisexual, personally. He takes what he likes, when it takes his fancy or when it suits him or can benefit him in some way, regardless of gender. He's a bit on the self-serving side, is our Michael.

It reminds me of that episode of THE SIMPSONS in which millionaire Mister Burns is dating Snake's ex-girlfriend Gloria, only to have her run off- as he thinks- with his sort-of wingman, Homer Simpson. 'It would appear that my virile young friend and my fiancée have run off together in my Ferrari Sexarossa...!' Mister Burns, I'm sure, can empathise with Monsieur Zoret.

Insult is heaped onto injury when Michael commits a rather low act (though it's not a crime, I hasten to add) in order to help the Countess out of a financial hole. See, I knew she was going to be nothing but trouble from the moment she breezed into the two mens' lives. What will Zoret do when he finds out what Michael has done? Will it be the end of them, or will the Master forgive his lover-protegé one more time...?

I love the old servant, Jules, with the long forked white beard and the old-fashioned knee-britches. I love his loyalty to the Master, but I also love that he, along with some of the other old gents who appear in the film, has come straight out of the nineteenth century. Even if Jules is only fifty-ish, he'd still have to have been born in the 1870s at least. Isn't that cool? The film is so old, I kind of keep expecting Kaiser Billy himself to turn up, or good old Bismarck.

I love also when Michael and the Countess go to the ballet to see Tchaikovsky's SWAN LAKE. It's so dreamily, hauntingly beautiful that it would send shivers down your spine. It's surely one of the loveliest pieces of music ever written too. Afterwards I felt like I'd taken a bath in culture. Rolled around in it, rubbed it all over myself and got it in all my creases and crevices, lol. Now that's how you watch a film like MICHAEL...!

MICHAEL, an important work of early gay cinema, is available to buy now on Blu-Ray as a WORLD EXCLUSIVE from EUREKA ENTERTAINMENT, as part of their MASTERS OF CINEMA series.


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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