Postcards from London (2018) - full transcript

A stylish, sexy film about a young man's journey into an unusual form of escort work, set in an imaginary vision of London's Soho.

Subtitles by explosiveskull

Titian was born in 1488

and died in 1576,
living well into his eighties.

He was the undisputed master

of Venetian painting
for 60 years.

And his contemporaries
alluded to him

as the sun amidst the stars,

which is the final line
in Dante's Paradiso.

You can see how beautifully
he uses and applies colour,

a characteristic of his work,

which held him in pre-eminence
through the High Renaissance

and arguably cast him
as the greatest painter

in Western art.

Erm, excuse me, sir. Erm,
you mustn't touch the paintings.

Er, excuse me?

Sir, are you OK?

Erm, excuse me,
can someone help us, please?

Pills, ecstasy, blow?
What do you want, fella?

I'm all right, thanks.

Looking for some company
tonight, darling?

No, I'm looking
for a place to stay.

Come on, handsome.
Don't be shy.

What you doing here?

I'm just sitting down
for a minute.

- Why, is there a problem?
- You didn't read the sign?

Sorry, mate, rules is rules.

Where I come from, people are
a little bit more friendly.

Do me a favour

and spare me that
old chirpy Northern routine.

- I've got work to do.
- I'm from Essex.

Listen, wherever you're from,
you ain't from round here.

Let me guess.

You were brought up
in the back of beyond.

In many ways,
it was an idyllic existence.

Really, you were bored shitless.

One fine day,
you had a brainwave.

"Move to London," you said.

"Make my fortune."

I did say that.
I said it to my dad.

You actually used those words?

- Sort of, yeah.
- Fuck me. What did he say?

If you ask me,
you're spending too much time

on that bloody computer.

Getting all these fancy ideas.

No use trying to talk me
out of it, Dad.

My mind's made up.
I'm leaving tonight.


Look, I've bought my ticket.

Well, what about your education?

Don't you see?
Thiswillbe my education.

Streets of London,
full of musicians and artists.

Piss artists, more like.
You'll meet plenty of those.

Sometimes, as I lay in bed
at night,

I imagine a world
beyond these four walls.

A world full of mystery
and possibilities.

Oh, never you mind
about mystery and possibilities.

What are we supposed to do

while you're busy
gallivanting around Soho

till gawd knows what time, eh?

- Your mum will be worried sick.
- He'll be all right.

As long as you don't speak
to strange boys

sleeping rough
in dark alleyways.

And with that,
they gave me their blessing.

Oh, fuck their blessing.
Did they give you any money?

Of course they did.
I'm their only son.

All right. Hand it over.

Why should I hand it over?

Right, this may come
as a surprise to you, yeah?

The streets of London
ain't paved in gold.

They're as cold as ice,

they stink of piss,
and they're full of villains.

So basically,
it's every man for himself.

All right,
you've talked me into it.

You should stay here,
strictly on a temporary basis.

Just till I get myself sorted.

Ten quid a night.

You can't charge someone
ten quid

to sleep in a cardboard box.

Why not?

I think you just met
your first villain.

What the fuck am I gonna do now?

Hang on.
I'm just getting to that.

Right. Now, I'm as open-minded
as the next man.

Your sexuality's
none of my business.

If I was you...

...I'd show my face
in that bar over there.

Trust me, you won't be skint
for long.

Thanks. I'll see you around.

Yeah, sure.
That's what they all say.

You mark my words. That bloke
ain't gonna last five minutes.

Yes, but the thing I love
about Velázquez the most

is the way he paints the spaces
in between objects.

I know what you mean.

Somehow he makes the object
become more real,

a lot more intense.

Yes. In the way, like,

he illuminates
the space between them.

The man was a genius.

- The painter's painter.
- Hold on a minute.

Do you see what I see?

What are you doing here?

I'm searching for a world full
of mystery and possibilities.

Good. Then you've come
to the right place.

You've heard of Velázquez?

No, I haven't, actually.
Is he a mate of yours?

He was the painter of twilights.

Oh, good for him.

- Of infinity.
- Even better.

Of silence.

I don't know what that means.

You gonna tell me what you want
or do I have to guess?

Good evening. Erm...

I've just moved into the area
and I'm looking for a job.

I'll wash pots, clean.
I'll do anything, really.

Does this look like
a job centre to you?

No, it doesn't but...

It's a bar which serves alcohol.

Don't tell me your life story,

just tell me
what you want to drink.

Sorry. I'll have a bottle
of beer, please.

Go on, then. Ask me the question
you've been meaning to ask me

ever since
you walked in the door.

Why are barmaids in London
so unfriendly?

Well, if I had a pound coin

for every time a pretty boy

came in here feeling sorry
for himself,

I wouldn't be pulling pints
for a living.

I can tell you that for nothing.

You need to toughen up.

- I do?
- Yeah, you do.

You're young, you're fit.

You have the face of an angel.

You'll have plenty of friends
soon enough.

I hope so.


- Marcello.
- Jesus.

- Victor.
- Jim.

I think I just met you guys

Come here often?

Are you lot thinking
what I'm thinking?

What are you thinking?

I'm thinking about
a beautiful painting

in the National Gallery.

It's on the first floor.
You go up the stairs,

take a sharp left
into the second room

and it's the third one along
on the right.

I know exactly what you mean.

I wish I did.
Please stop doing that.

He could have stepped out
of a Caravaggio.

That name rings a bell.

You ever heard
of personal space?

I saw the vacancy in the window.

- How old are you, Jim?
- Eighteen.

Er... 21. I'm looking for a job.

This is not a job.
This is a vocation.

I'm not sure what that means.

Excuse me for a minute
while I just run to the toilet.

I think he's the one
we've been looking for.

A strong desire to pursue

or a particular liking
for a special vocation."

A strong desire to pursue

or a natural liking
for a particular vocation."

It was great meeting you lads.

I'll definitely think
about what you said.

Are you trying to get me drunk?

No disrespect,
but you're a small-town boy.

And this is a big city.

Don't worry about me.
I can look after myself.

How are you gonna survive?

Like I said, I'll find a job
and I've got my savings.

The wallet you left on the table
looks pretty empty to me.

Look, we've all sat
where you're sitting now.

We understand the anxiety.

I'm not anxious, I'm just...

wondering what it is you lot
actually do for a living.

Sexy Boys Raconteurs.

Now I know what it is
you're talking about.

With the right training,

you could go a long way
in this business.

I'll have to think about it.
If it's what I wanna do, I mean.

I was hoping to find something
a little more creative.

This is creative.

Some of the finest actors
of their generation

have played the role
you're about to play.

- River Phoenix.
- Keanu Reeves.

Joe Dallesandro.

I need to get back in the gym.

What is a Raconteur, by the way?

I'll explain everything. First
I want to show you something.

I love London. It's the best
city in the whole fucking world.

And it belongs to us.

It does look great tonight,
I must admit.

All the cool people
come out at night.

Writers, artists,
queers, whores.

It belongs to us
and we can do whatever we want.

That's why I came here.

I've been dreaming of walking
these streets since I was a kid.

And all of it could be yours.

And forget about that
boring shit you left behind.

Just dream about
who you wanna be.

Come on.
Let me buy you another drink.

What do you think is the most
difficult thing about sex?

I dunno. What to say
to the person afterwards?

You've hit the nail
on the head.

Have I?

In a society as atomised
as ours, people crave intimacy.

And that's the service
we provide.

What about the sex?

The sex is the easy part.
And we enjoy it.

But our speciality
is what comes afterwards.

You mean smoking a cigarette?

I mean post-coital conversation.

I've not had
much experience in that,

but I'm as horny
as the next man.

Intellectual debate.
Exchange of ideas.

That's what the world
is crying out for.

Like, cheap hookers standing
on street corners

are a thing of the past.

Not where I'm from they're not.

Our clients want to talk about
a novel they once read,

a painting they once saw
in a gallery.

People wanna be inspired by art.

- They wanna be uplifted.
- I'll do it.

I'll do some uplifting.

I knew you were one of us
as soon as I saw you.

First off, we need a profile.
We'll sort that tomorrow.

And a supply of condoms.

Who's your favourite artist?

I saw a painting
by Caravaggio once.

Caravaggio is a great place
to start.

He's raw, he's sexy,
and he painted people like us.

We work at the high end
of the market.

Art dealers, politicians,
senior clergy.

These people are educated,

so you need to know your Goya
from your Gauguin,

your Fritz Lang
from your Fassbinder.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder,
prolific German film-maker.

A genius, destroyed
by years of sex, drugs

and cheap Russian vodka.

Greatest achievement?

Fear Eats the Soul.

Social media
is a definite no-no.

People wanna suck your cock.

They don't care
what you had for breakfast.

I'm liking the sound of this.

Our clients are of
an older generation,

so the less you can bang on
about technology, the better.

Some of them will remember Soho
in its heyday.

Bet they've got
some great stories.

Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud,
The Colony Rooms.

A word of warning.

There's always gonna be
some fresh-faced kid

trying to take your place
in the spotlight.

Someone with a bigger dick
and a nicer smile.

So get to bed early
on a school night

and keep drug-taking
to a minimum.

Am I allowed
the occasional spliff?

Well, everything in moderation.

But remember,
we're a bit like athletes.

It's important we stay fit.

Potentially we earn shitloads of
money and then we retire early.

You've got five years
in this game, tops.

Didn't realise being a rent boy
was so complicated.

Place your hand on this packet
of condoms and repeat after me:

"We're the oldest profession and
we take pride in what we do."

We're the oldest profession
and we take pride in what we do.

"Our sacred mission

is to drag male prostitution
into the 21st century,

whilst paying homage
to the artists who came before."

Our sacred mission

is to drag male prostitution
into the 21st century,

whilst paying homage to the
artists who've gone before.

"So help me God."

I'm only joking.

Welcome to Soho.

- I do have one more question.
- Go on.

So why are all
these successful blokes

paying teenage prostitutes
for intellectual stimulation?

I dunno.

Maybe they're not getting it
at home.


We were normal teenagers once.

- Obsessed by football.
- Sex.

- Mobile phones.
- Jim. Jim, Jim, Jim.

Hold it there for a second.

- But something was missing.
- We craved the big city.

- The bright lights.
- There were five of us once.

What happened
to the previous lad?

Hold it there for a second.

He was beautiful
but he met a terrible fate.

Oh, I'm sorry. What happened?
Did he die?

It's worse than that.
He went to work in the City.

Hold it there, Jim. Perfect.

All he cared about was money.
And his politics were... dodgy.

Well, beauty can't last forever,
can it?

Tell that to Cleopatra.

From what I've read,
Cleopatra was really fit.

Hold it, Jim.

Actually, according
to the latest academic reports,

Cleopatra was a minger.

Liz Taylor's 1963 performance

Listen, Cleopatra
was no oil painting.

She knew how to play
those rumours.

Caesar preferred boys.

How do you know all of this?

While the rest of our generation

was shoving drugs
down their neck,

we were reading books.

OK, Jim, it's time
to show me the money.

The... money?
I though we agreed...

The money means your cock.

- Oh.
- I need a picture of your cock.

Yeah, no worries.

Is everything OK?

Everything's more than OK.


I've worked with
some handsome blokes in my time

but this kid...
this kid is something special.

I mean, the camera loves him.

We will teach you
everything that we know.

but where do we start?

Given me a headache
just thinking about it.

We'll start with Caravaggio,

then work our way back
to the ancients.

Art, poetry, literature.

There's a lot to learn
and we don't have much time.

Yeah, but for now
we'll stick to the basics.

To be honest,
that's the part of the job

that worries me the most.

I've had some trouble
in the past.

Forget about the past.
You're one of us now.

And I've got a good feeling
about you.

"Police records
show that in May 1606,

Caravaggio killed the gangster
Ranuccio Tomassoni in a duel."

"The painter fled Rome at night
and made his way to Naples,

where he sought the protection
of the Colonna family."

"On a grey morning
in November 1975,

the cold, lifeless body
of Pier Paolo Pasolini

was discovered on the beach
at Ostia, outside Rome."

"The poet had been murdered,
so we lost a poet..."

"As he walked along the shore
that night,

looking for the company
of strangers,

did Pasolini ponder
the violent life of Caravaggio?"

"Did he imagine young men
lurking in the shadows..."

"As a student, Oscar Wilde
saw the great painting

of Saint Sebastian
by Guido Reni."

"The beautiful image
overwhelmed him."

"It brought tears
to his eyes..."

"Did this Irish Sebastian

imagine Caravaggio
in the alleyways of Rome,

searching for the beggars
and prostitutes

to people
his religious painting?"


...perhaps he imagined himself
as a beautiful work of art..."

"Legend has it
that Francis Bacon

and George Dyer became lovers

after George,
a petty thief from the East End,

broke into Bacon's studio
in the dead of night."

You sure you're ready?

I can't study for ever. I need
to get out there and practise.

- Go on, ask me a question.
- OK.

So a bloke calls up

and says Caravaggio gives
him a massive hard-on.

But he likes it a bit rough,

so he's not so keen on all those
pretty boys he painted in Rome

at the beginning of his career.

He wants something...
darker, more edgy.

After a couple of drinks,

I'd probably introduce him
to the Flagellation of Christ,

painted in Naples, 1607.

Caravaggio's on the run
after committing murder.

He's tired, he's sick,
he's a bit paranoid.

I like where you're going
with this.

It's the perfect example
of his late period.

The lighting is dramatic.

Christ's tortured body
is lit in a singular spotlight.

The other muscular figures
appear from deep, dark shadows.

Good work.

I'm impressed.


I bet there are a number
of distinguished gentlemen

struggling to get through
even as we speak.

- You think so?
- I know so.

Hello? I moved to London.

I saw you
in a photograph.

I've never done this before.

"Fit Lad with Basket of Fruit."

I can be with you tonight.

- I called you straight away.
- Anything is possible.

- I couldn't wait any longer.
- If you have the money.

I want you...

Nothing is a problem. badly.

Sorry, I can't stop staring
at you.

- I'm making you uncomfortable.
- Little bit, yeah.

As I was saying,
do you prefer Goya or Gauguin?

- Fritz Lang or Fassbinder?
- You've completely lost me.

I'm just trying to figure out
which kind of things you prefer.

Are you on drugs?

I don't do drugs.
My body's a temple.

Oh, I can see that.

But, please, just try
and relax a little bit.

You seem very tense.

Sorry. You're my first client
and it's hard to relax in here.

My mates tell me you're writing
a book on Caravaggio.

Yes. And I saw that
you had an interest.

But that's not the only reason
I invited you out, Jim.

And please don't feel you need
to keep talking for my sake.

I'm a Raconteur. Talking's
what I do. Amongst other things.

I appreciate the irony,
I really do.

But I saw your picture and... are probably one of
the most beautiful men

I have ever seen.

Thanks very much.

When I first saw your picture

I... was reminded of
a young man in a painting and...

- I wanted to show it to you.
- Don't tell me.

It's on the first floor,
up the stairs,

sharp left into the second room,

- and it's the third one along.
- Amazing.

How did you know?

Actually, it's right here.
Take a look.

Are you OK, Jim?

Jim, can you hear me?

Perfect young lad who...

Perfect young lad
who moved to Rome.

Perfect young lad
who moved to Rome.

He's delirious.

Do you think he even knows
which century he's in?

Probably not.
It was a heavy fall.

- Where the fuck am I?
- Show some respect.

We're posing for
a 17th-century masterpiece.

Yeah. Destined to hang
in the Vatican, apparently.

The Entombment of Christ,

painted by Caravaggio in 1601.

Considered by many
to be the finest example of...

Oh, not now, George.
Isn't he supposed to be dead?

I knew I should never
have let him out of my sight.

Don't worry, Mum. I've met
some really interesting people.

Won't be long now
till I'm resurrected.

The resurrection
will look after itself.

Just tell me how
your first job went.

The sex was great.
The problems came after.

I think I'm too serious.
I need to lighten up.

That's right. He does.

I offered to pay him
but he was having none of it.

That's not a great start, is it?
You think we do this for fun?

Where's Caravaggio, by the way?

Well, there's nobody out there.

- Are you sure?
- Yeah, I'm sure.

Maybe he's on the run.

Was Caravaggio such a bad boy
or was half of it just made up?

That's the beauty of it,
I suppose.

We'll never really know.

One part is true.

We know he killed someone
in a duel.

But parts of his life
are legend, I suspect.

He's a fascinating character.

And a great self-publicist.

Just not the kind of man you
want to meet in a dark alley.

That's exactly
where I'd like to meet him.

You remind me
of someone I once knew.

He's gone now.

Do you miss him?

I miss him terribly.

He last wrote to me from Italy.

He described a painting.

A painting that he saw
in a church.

I never saw it.

Except as a reproduction
in a book.

I never saw him again either.

Why so sad all of a sudden?

I'm not sad.
Just thinking, is all.

I wish you could see
that painting.

I wish we could see it together.

Don't be so serious.

Enjoy your time
in the spotlight.

I'll try.

I don't think I can do
this job any more.

I think I'm too sensitive.

It's early days.

And part of what we do is listen
to other people's problems.

It comes with the territory.

But I take their problems
home with me at night.

It's affecting my studies.

Lie back and think of England.
This is what I do.

Shouldn't you think of Spain?

Try not to get
emotionally involved.

I wanna be emotionally involved.

I see a lot of loneliness
out there, a lot of sadness.

This is London. Everyone's
lonely to a certain extent.

That's why we need
to stick together.



Saint Sebastian?

Painted by Guido Reni in 1625.

Yeah, no worries.
Be there as soon as I can.

Just remember,

you're a sex worker,
not a miracle worker.

I'm a sex worker,
not a miracle worker.

I'm a sex worker,
not a miracle worker.

I'm a sex worker,
not a miracle worker.

Ahh! Saint Sebastian,

the most beautiful
of all the saints.

Now, my own research suggests
that this particular saint

was a middle-aged captain
of the Praetorian Guard,

but erm... let's not spoil
the party.

This is your last chance
to save your skin.

Do you renounce
the Catholic faith?

I'll do whatever you want.
It's your money.

Christian martyrs aren't in it
for the money.

Have some self-respect.

Be careful where you point
that arrow, Tony.

I'm not wearing any...

I'm paying £100 for you

to transport me back
to the glories of ancient Rome.

You could at least
call me Diocletian.

Ah, good evening, gentlemen.
How are you both doing today?

- Perfectly fine, thank you.
- Glad to hear it.

Right, I've got two
cheeseburgers with extra bacon,

two portions of fries,

a cheap bottle of red wine
and a bowl of fruit

arranged in the style of a
17th-century Italian still life.

Now, anything else
I can get for you?

It's very kind of you,
but no, thank you.

You gentlemen haven't
been smoking in here, have you?

It's strictly against
company policy.

Certainly not.
It's a disgusting habit.

And now, sadly,
I must bid you good night.

Sir, I can definitely smell
cigarette smoke in this room.

Young man, we have
urgent business to attend to

and you are clearly delusional!

But, sir, I may have
to report you to my superiors!

As I was saying,

the year is 288...

and the greatest empire
the world has ever known

is on the brink of collapse.

- To the north...
- I'm not being funny...

To the north... the Germanic
tribes are restless.

To the east,
the Huns are on the march.

I'm not being funny,
but in the painting,

Saint Sebastian
was a good-looking bloke.

Oh... I give up.

I thought we were here
to recreate

a 17th-century masterpiece.

No, we are,
and I'm having a great time.

It's just... I've been thinking
of antiquity, is all.

You Raconteurs do too much
thinking for my liking.

Thinking's what we do,
amongst other things.

Get to the point.

The barbarians are at the gates.

My point is you've got him...
you've got me.

I mean, held captive in a room.

Why re-enact his death
when you can just fuck him,

and we can both enjoy
some post-coital conversation?

First of all, I don't appreciate
the crude language.

And, second, what I do

in the privacy of a cheap hotel
room with a Catholic saint

is my concern and not yours.

I've done it again.

I've spoilt the vibe.
You carry on.

My dear boy, do you even know
the story of Saint Sebastian?

I know he died a slow
and painful death

at the hand of the Romans.

And he was the world's first
male pin-up.

Sebastian died
for the glory

of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Even a cursory glance at
Wikipedia could tell you that.

The fact that he had a fit body
is completely beside the point.

Having a fit body
is never beside the point.

You know how much
a gym membership costs nowadays?

Frankly, I neither know
nor care.

Give us a drag, will you?

Despite your
undoubted beauty,

I have a sneaking suspicion

I'm going to come away
from this encounter...

somewhat deflated.

People go crazy
for Sebastian, don't they?

I mean, if he was alive today,
he would make a killing.

If Sebastian was alive today,
we'd all be out of a job.

He wanted me to talk dirty
to him in Latin,

but I didn't have time
to practise.

Was he a priest, do you think?

In my experience, priests tend
to avoid classical iconography.

They prefer things
more down and dirty.

Tony just has a fetish
for boys of antiquity.

On our next date,

we're gonna recreate
the bath scene fromSpartacus.

You need to charge extra
for that shit.

Did you get the money?

I took it. Then I gave it back.

You took it,
then you gave it back?

I felt bad for him.
His life's a mess.

Your life's gonna be a mess
if you keep working for free.

I am skint, to be honest.

Listen, I think it's about time

we introduced you
to a proper artist.

One who's not dead.

I'm well up for that.

I've got a friend
who wants to meet you.

He's been pestering me
for weeks.

He's... He's super talented, but
he's hit a bit of a dry patch.

I'm ready, let's go.

It's two o'clock
in the morning.

Come on.
Where's your sense of adventure?

- Huh?
- All right, fuck it.

Let's do it.

Max, meet Jim. Jim's obsessed
with becoming a muse.

I'm modelling myself
on George Dyer.

Without the tragic ending,
I hope.

Jim, where have you been
all my life?

What I love about George
is that he inspired

some of the greatest art
of the 20th century,

but he could still
mash it up at the pub

with his mates
on a Saturday night.

Shame he was a manic depressive.

Living with Francis Bacon
was no bed of roses,

I can tell you that.

I've read about you in a book.

British Portraiture
and Introspectives.

I'm told that every phone box
within a mile of Soho

has become a shrine
to your beauty.

Something like that, yeah.

Go easy. He's not as tough
as we originally thought.

What took you so long?
I've been begging you for weeks.

I told you. He wasn't ready.

This kid could be
the greatest thing

that's happened to me in years.

I've got a major retrospective
coming up.

- I need new material.
- I know.

I know. I'm just saying
he's sensitive.

- That's all.
- You and me go back a long way.

- I painted you once, remember?
- I remember.

I'm hanging
in a gallery somewhere. It's...

I've been stale for years

and you were too polite
to tell me the truth.

It's been hard. I get it.

And muses are thin
on the ground these days.

Just... break him in gently.

If he wants to be a muse

he'll have to put the work in,
simple as that.

Because when it comes
to the male form,

I am an incurable romantic.

If being a muse was easy,
every Tom...

- Tom, Dick and Harry, yes.
- Don't take the piss.

Just give me six months
with him.

Six months?
How much are you paying him?

How much does he get
for the other stuff?

How much? Jesus Christ,
I'm in the wrong game.

I used to be quite a looker
in my time, you know.

Well, everyone said it.

Do you believe in fate, Jim?

I do, actually, yeah.

Then it's fate
that has brought us together.

I'll expect you every day
at 8pm sharp, except Sunday.

We'll work through the night.

I won't tolerate
any bad timekeeping.

Yes, sir.

Beauty will only get you so far
in this business.

You have to dedicate yourself.
You have to concentrate.

I wanna do this, Max,
I really do.

I'm going to request
that you do not move,

that you do not speak.

After we finish
you can talk all you like.

I'm tired of talking,
to tell you the truth.

Talking just gets me
into trouble.


Let's get down to work, then.

I particularly like
the tension

between the beauty of the image
and the violence of the pose.

The taut muscles,
the clenched fists.

The thickness of the paint,
the bold strokes.

I can't believe I've finally
made it onto a canvas.

And this is just the beginning.

I imagine a whole series
of paintings,

exploring every facet of...

All you all right?


Yeah, no, I just... I've been
sat in here for months.

I need to get some fresh air,
that's all.

I wish
I had your problems.

What happened to you?
You look like shit, mate.

It's nice to see you, too. I've
been working a lot, that's all.

What, you call that work?

Sitting on your arse all day
and getting paid for it?

You did all right for yourself
in the end.

And you can say it was me
who discovered you.

What are you talking about?

I was the one who brought you to
that bar that night, remember?

It was me who took you
under my wing, so to speak,

on the path to fame and fortune.

Hang on a minute.

Weren't you the one who tried
to charge me ten quid a night

- to sleep in a cardboard box?
- Listen.

Why are all rent boys
so cynical these days?

I'm not a rent boy, I'm a muse.


And muse ain't the type of job

you see advertised
in the job centre, is it?

Being in the right place
at the right time.

You know what?

I think I'm beginning to see
what all the fuss is about.

Stop touching my face.

Oh, you reckon cos I'm homeless,

I can't appreciate
good bone structure?

Listen, mate, are you all right?
You're acting well weird.

Fuck me.


What's going on?

I was about to ask you
the same question.

We're worried about you.

I'm worried too. I don't know
what's wrong with me.

Being sensitive
is all well and good,

but you can't be fainting
every five minutes.

- It makes people nervous.
- The sex I can deal with.

- It's the art that fucks me up.
- Tell us what's been happening.

Go from the beginning,
before you met us, I mean.



It was my last year at school

and all I could think about
was moving to London.

But I had a thing for my
art teacher. And I'd do anything

- to catch a glimpse of him.
- You had it bad.

Really bad. I've got a thing
for educated people

and this bloke had practically
swallowed a dictionary.

Late one night, he lured me into
the corner of the library,

and showed me
some disturbing images.

- What? Porn?
- No.

It was art, but like nothing
I'd ever seen before.

Now I know it was Baroque,

but back then, I didn't know
what the fuck was going on.

Don't get me wrong,

the naked bodies were a turn-on,
it's just...

Did he ever touch you?

No. He just stared at me
for hours.

He objectified you.

I was proper objectified, yeah.

But that was when
it got more serious

and we started going
to galleries,

and whilst I stared
at the paintings,

he'd be staring at me.

Did you tell the police?
Social services?

No, I secretly enjoyed
the attention.

But that's when
I started to get sick.

I saw myself in the paintings.

So, let me get this straight.

We have a sensitive teenage boy

coming to terms
with his sexuality

and a highly intelligent
older male

who uses art
as a means of seduction.


To complicate matters further,

and for reasons we don't
yet understand, said teenage boy

can't look
at a beautiful painting

without feeling
emotionally overwhelmed,

without imagining himself in it.

Also correct.

We need to get you to a doctor.

Maybe I should just
avoid art galleries.

That's impossible in
our line of work, you know that.

I'm thinking
of changing my career.

Don't be too hasty.

I know the person
you should see.

- You do?
- I do.

She's not cheap
but she's good at what she does.

What does she do?

She specialises in illnesses
no one's ever heard of.

Give her a call.

Come on, handsome. Don't be shy.

Jim, why do you think Caravaggio
has been such a problem for you?

Oh, don't get me wrong,
I'm a big fan.

For me,
it's where modern art started.

And you feel a compulsion
to return to him,

to study his work again
and again?

Look, Caravaggio probably wasn't

the greatest artist
who ever lived.

Technically, I mean, but the way
he painted darkness and light,

he was brilliant,
no one could touch him.

And what about
the people he painted?

The tricksters, the whores,
the undesirables?

I love the fact he took
ordinary people from the street

and made 'em look like saints.
He was the first one to do that.

Do you identify with the people
in his paintings?

I do, yeah.
I feel like I know them.

They could be me or my mates.

Would you consider yourself
a religious person?

Not really.
I just imagine the worst.

When I see Baby Jesus, I just
think about the crucifixion.

All that pain and suffering
really gets to me.

And the beauty of it just
draws me in and... won't let go.

Jim, there are a number
of syndromes

associated with these kinds
of reactions to art,

from mild anxiety
to severe delusional states.

Do you think I'm on
the high end of the spectrum?

Well, that's what
we're about to discover.

Try and stay calm.

I'm going to remove
your blindfold.

And when I do, we'll approach
the painting together.

And I want you
to describe what you see.


The Musicians.

It's beautiful, isn't it?

Hmm. It's a beautiful painting,
yes, but what else?

What else do you see?

I see myself.

There, look.

Music. I can hear music.

Like tuning of instruments.

What are you lot doing here?

Italian bloke. The one
with the mad glint in his eye.


Yeah, whatever his name is.

He was wandering round Soho
looking confused.

At first I thought
he was homeless,

but it turns out
he's proper famous.

He's famous, all right,
but he can be very tricky.

Yeah. He definitely had
a few too many.

You could smell it
on his breath.

Anyway, he offered me a few gold
coins and a warm bed at night,

if I... dressed up as Cupid.

What's up with you?

I'm having a check-up on the
state of my mental well-being

from a doctor
who was once a prostitute.

Fair enough.
Is she fit?

You need to be quiet.
He looks pissed off.

Oh, fuck, here he comes.

Call me old-fashioned,

but pretty boys are supposed
to pose for the artist

- and keep their mouths shut.
- We were just saying...

Have you ever tried working
with this much noise going on?

- You should try it some time.
- You need to take a chill pill.

It's just a bit of banter.

Remember, this is one
of your lightest pieces.

You boys make me want to puke.

Thinking you're better
than anyone else

just cos you're hanging
in a gallery somewhere.

Who gives a shit?

You were the one who chose us,

You plucked us from obscurity.

It's tough working in this town,
you know.

Roman cardinals
can be very picky.

And don't even get me started
on the Pope.

No one ever asks Caravaggio
if he's having a nice day.

What's this guy's problem?

I think the problem
is he's a tortured genius.

I'll tell you
what the problem is.

I have boys queueing round the
block to sit where you are now.

So, any more bullshit
from you...

and I'll throw you back to the
gutter where you belong.

- Understood?
- Understood.

I make you and your boyfriends
pretty in my paintings,

so don't fuck with me!


temperamental genius.

Fugitive from the law.

- Apparently a homo.
- Definitely a nutter.

Jim, where did you think
you were?

I imagined I was in Rome

in the summer of 1595.

In the home
of Cardinal del Monte,

being painted by Caravaggio.

I was one of the musicians.

We were just tuning
our instruments,

minding our own business
when it all kicked off.

In what sense did it...
kick off?

Look, I know Caravaggio's
got a lot on his plate:

murder, illness,
exiled to Sicily.

It's just...
He needs to chill out a bit.

He's not been having
a great time of it lately.

I understand that.

He hasn't got much longer
to live and all that.

But he doesn't need
to be so touchy, you know?

Jim, I'm afraid
I've got some bad news.

Well, I knew that was coming.

You are suffering
from a rare condition

called Stendhal syndrome.

Not a debilitating illness,
by any means.

But you'll definitely
need to make some changes

in your lifestyle.

Can you explain to me
what that means?

I... can.

But not right now.

Unfortunately, I'm late
for my next appointment.

What, that's it?

I'm afraid so. Time is money.

But if you have any questions,
please do give me a call.

Well, I have lots of questions.

Goodbye, Jim.

Please get some rest.
And, remember,

paintings of the Baroque period

should be avoided
as much as possible.

Oh, and one last thing.

- What?
- Caravaggio can be prickly.

But he's really
not such a bad person.

You're talking about a bloke
who killed someone

over an argument
in a tennis match.

The doctor told me
to avoid Caravaggio

if I want to keep my sanity.

What kind of life is that?

I feel sorry for you,
I really do.

I know where you're coming from.

But give me
the tremendous violence

of Francis Bacon any days
of the week.

The screaming queen
paints a screaming pope.

The human mouth
as a gaping wound.

If you force me to choose,

I mean, if you put a gun
to my head,

I'd go for Mapplethorpe.

No, his work is too cold.
There is no emotion.

That man knew
how to photograph beauty.

Mapplethorpe didn't understand
the men he photographed.

They were reduced to what hung
between their legs.


At the end of the day...
we're all just pieces of meat.

Guys, can someone tell me

what the fuck is going on?

According to our friend,

you have a syndrome
named after Henry Stendhal.

Stendhal syndrome
is a rare illness

which affects some individuals

that are exposed to fine art.

It can cause dizziness,

and even blackouts.

Was this Stendhal bloke
a doctor?

No. No, he was
a 19th-century novelist

who wrote
The Charterhouse of Parma,

amongst other things. He was
a little flowery for my taste.

But you know
how the French are.

Hey! Your clichéd view of my
country is 50 years out of date.

We have a vibrant youth culture,
the rap scene is massive,

and we have tension
in the suburbs.

So go fuck yourself.

"Stendhal wrote about his
experience with the phenomenon

after a visit to Florence
in the summer of 1817."

"Absorbed in the contemplation
of divine beauty,

I could perceive
its very essence close at hand."

"I could, as it were,

feel the stuff of it
beneath my fingertips."

Wait a minute, I've never
even been to Florence.

Oh, fuck!

What's going on, mate?

You're late.

I won't tolerate
bad timekeeping.

I'm sorry. What's going on?

What's going on is...
you were late.

And I sat here and I... began
to look at these paintings.

You could hardly
call them paintings.

More an attempt at painting.

And I began to think
about my work.

My life's work is in this room,
gathering dust.

And a lot of it's fine work,

I told you, no talking.

No talking, no moving,
unless I tell you.

You have to... concentrate.

You have to concentrate and you
have to dedicate yourself.

We haven't started work yet,

You were late.

And my life's work's
in this room.

And it's a pile of crap.

I'm old and I'm tired.

I hadn't painted anything
half decent in years.

- Until you come along.
- That's not true.

Oh, we both know it's true.

But I'm not giving up.

I'm gonna start again.

You're the first piece
of true inspiration

I've had in 30 years.

And inspiration's
a precious gift, Jim.

So I thank you for that.

You're a beautiful young man.

Have the day off.
You deserve it.

You've come a long way.
I'm impressed.

Thanks. It means a lot.

It's a beautiful painting, Max.

Really intense.

Beauty should always be intense.

Beauty should always
be dangerous.

I notice that there was no
reference to your... sickness.

Yeah. But we've got
another project in the pipeline,

haven't we, Max?

a series of paintings

with Jim
as a beautiful peasant boy

travelling through Italy
in the steps of Stendhal.

He's confused.

His family have worked the land
for centuries,

but he's a city boy at heart.

He craves the bright lights.

Did you really destroy

Yeah, most of it's gone.

Not worth the canvas
it was painted on.

While you're busy contemplating
the size of my dick,

consider this question.

Why does life have to be so sad?

I... I am sorry.

I, erm... I lost myself there
for a moment.

Don't worry.
Get it all the time.

I'd hate to think of anyone

as beautiful as you
ever be unhappy.

Breaks my heart.

Don't get me wrong. My mates
are a great bunch of lads.

They've taught me to appreciate
the finer things in life.

The music of Bach?

The, er... poetry of Cavafy?

Did you know,
Cavafy was once described as

"a Greek gentleman
standing absolutely motionless

at a slight angle
to the universe"?

He was indeed.

By, er... EM Forster.

You're an intelligent young man.

Whatever possessed you
to become a rent boy?

We don't use those words.

Which words should I use?

Doesn't matter.
I'm a muse these days.

I used to model myself
on George Dyer

but now I'm thinking
more Joe Dallesandro.

Ah. Now, George and Francis
I remember well.

Er... Joe Dallesandro
I can only dream of.

What I loved about Joe is that

he was in all those films,

yet, really, he was just playing
a version of himself.

Well, aren't we all
doing just that?

Playing versions of ourselves?

I'll get back to you
on that one.

How's your dancing skills?

Oh, a bit rusty, but I...

I was considered
quite a mover in my day.

Good. Then we'll have
a drink and a dance

and you can tell me a story.

What sort of story
should I tell you?

A story about Soho
in the old days.

About George and Francis,
Lucian Freud,

and all the fucked-up nights
in The Colony Room.

It will be
my pleasure.

You tell me your story
and I'll tell you my story.


I fell in with the wrong crowd,

who turned out to be the right
crowd, and became a muse.

And then I was diagnosed
with a rare sickness.

Well, I must say, you look
perfectly healthy to me.

Don't worry,
it's not a sexual disease.

It's more of a sickness
of the mind.

Now I am worried.

I'm overly sensitive to art,

which is a piss-take, really,

cos I was raised
in a cultural desert.

Are you receiving treatment?
Is anybody helping you with it?

I've seen doctors...


I've tried everything.

Pills, hypnosis,
injections up the arse.

Well... I must say,
it sounds fascinating.

You wouldn't be interested

in joining me for a nightcap,
would you?

There's nothing fascinating
about me, mate.

I'm just a sensitive lad...

...with a big cock.

It was lovely to meet you.

But... I haven't told you

Mind if I join you?

Be my guest.

- I'm Paul.
- I know who you are.

What you doing here?

Just... catching up
with my mates.

Talking about old times.

You're not here to see them?

Came here to see you.

I don't know what happened
between you and them,

but they've been good to me.

Given me a job, place to stay.
Worked out well.

That's nice of them.
I mean, just think,

you could have ended up
becoming a rent boy.

It's not a word we like to use.

So they dumped
a pile of books in your lap

and said you were getting
an education,

but really all you're doing
is selling your arse for cash

and dressing it up as art.

If you hated it so much,
why did you do it?

I was young. Had fuck all money.
I didn't know anybody in London.

Sound familiar?

Heard you were
the best in your day.

You took Soho by storm.

Nobody cares about Soho
any more.

It's the same
as everywhere else.

Those guys,
they'll never change.

They'll always be
on the outside.

And you?

- I wanna be on the inside.
- You wanna make serious money.

I love money.
And I'm not ashamed to say it.

I knew nothing about art
until I met them.

Knew nothing about anything,

You knew more than you think.

And your friends?
They live in the past.

They wanna live in the past.

That's the best place
to be for them.

The best thing about art is
the price you can sell it for.

It's as simple as that.

Anyway, I hear you have
a special talent.

Right now it feels more
like a curse.

Well, I've heard differently.

That's what I came
to talk to you about.

I'm tired of talking.

But you're a Raconteur.
Talking's what you do.

Don't worry,
I'll make it worth your while.

I don't want your money.

We'll see about that.

Come on. Let's get outta here.

You coming or what?

Take this.

You get paid to talk.
I'm paying you to talk.


I can't look at art.
It makes me sick.

- Proper art, I mean.
- Go on.

Depending on the quality
of the work,

I get dizzy spells, blackouts.

If it's beautiful,
if it's a proper masterpiece,

I faint
and imagine myself in it.

- You taking the piss?
- No, I'm not.

And if you saw a fake,
what would happen then?

What do you mean, a fake?

I mean, if someone tried
to pass off a fake as genuine,

what would happen then?

Nothing would happen, I suppose.

So you wouldn't react
in the same way?

You don't understand.
I'm not experienced.

This is more
of an emotional reaction.

It's not something
I can control.

It just... happens.

You realise there's serious
money to be made out of this?

You can't make money
out of a sickness.

You can make money out of
anything these days, believe me.

Call me tomorrow night.

Why? Am I leaving?

I didn't say that.

I used to think an image

could tell you everything you
needed to know about a person.

An image can tell you

Or it can tell you
nothing at all.

An image can reveal a person
or... could hide a person.

You should know that.

And what does this one tell you?

It tells you
to forget about him.

That person doesn't exist
any more.

Thanks for coming.

No worries.
What are we doing here?

We're gonna look
at paintings.

So do you want sex before,
during or after?

Very smart.

I'm particularly strong
on early Baroque.

a personal favourite

but, you choose.
It's your money.

You're in a good mood.

I had fun the other night.

We're gonna see
just how talented you are.

It's not a talent I've got,
it's a sickness.

You need to stop thinking
about it as a sickness

and look at it more
as a business opportunity.

I've told you already.
Money doesn't interest me.

Well, you may not
be interested in money

but money is interested in you.

The people I represent
bought this painting

and it cost them a fortune.

Now there's a question
about its authenticity.

It's more beautiful
than I ever imagined.

What can you tell me?


Is it the real thing or not?

He's fainted.

What do you mean,
what do I mean?

He... he's fainted.
He... he's out cold.

It's a great thing.

There's something
I've been meaning to ask you.

Always talking.
This boy never shuts up.

It's like working with
a spoilt child. I can't listen.

Just one question, then I'll
leave you alone, I promise.

I'd tread very carefully,
if I were you.

It's just there's been
a lot of debate

about your sexuality
amongst art critics.

It's the way you paint
young blokes.

That's it!
I've had enough of this shit.

I can't work
with this kid any more.

That was a legitimate question.

Your sexuality's
been hotly debated

since your art's
been rediscovered

in the 18th century.

He is beautiful,
I give you that.

Just look...
My gosh, this boy's the devil.

No one calls me "frocio"
and gets away with it.

I've killed men for less.

I can't fight with you.
You're my favourite artist.

You know nothing about art.

All you know, you've read in
a book in a library somewhere.

You can't understand art

unless you know
what it's like to suffer.


Oh, fuck London! Who gives
a shit about London?

Name me one great artist

that ever came out
of that stinking backwater!

Erm... Francis Bacon,
Lucian Freud...

Never heard of them. See?
I told you. You know nothing.

This is Naples now, my boy.

And this is my home town.

So, come on. Prove you're a man.

You can't be serious.

I think you'll find that if
someone from 17th-century Naples

challenges you to a duel,
you are duty-bound to accept.

But we're not in Naples,
we're in my dream.

Try telling him that.

Stop talking about him
like he's real.

He's a figment
of my imagination.

The sooner
you get this over with,

the sooner you get out of here.

Someone wake me up, please!

Who's the vulture now, eh?

Pretty boy.

Jim, wake up.


Are you OK?

I think so, yeah.

That was a close shave.

Thought I'd lost you
for a minute.

You cut yourself.

I could feel the blade
on my skin.

I really thought
he was gonna kill me.

- Who?
- Caravaggio.

I thought he was gonna kill me.

This is fucking great.

It's not funny.

That bloke has got
serious mental health issues.

Take this as a down payment.

Down payment for what?

Never you mind about that.

You need to get some rest.

We've got work to do.

Been anywhere interesting?

Just a regular client.

Go on. Explain yourself.
We're listening.

What is there to explain?
The money was for sex.

Of all the fit blokes in London,
why go with him?

We never exchanged a word,
I swear.

You had everything
going for you.

Why sell your soul to the devil?

He's not the devil.
He just works in the City.

How could you do this to us?
I thought we were friends.

We are friends.

We warned you
that not every night

will be the night
of your dreams.

Patience is a virtue, my friend,
especially in the art world.

Van Gogh didn't make it big
until he was dead.

Is that such a good thing?

Don't be too smart
for your own good.

You think the boys
and Caravaggio had an easy time?

No, they didn't.
They were living on the street.

But they will be
remembered forever.

Don't talk about Caravaggio.
He does my head in.

Some of the finest artists
in London

are queueing to paint you.

Isn't immortality
good enough for you?

Look, I'm not knocking

Maybe it's just not for me,
is what I'm saying.

Look, I know
I sound ungrateful but...

I wanna do my own thing.

I wanna discover my own path.

I couldn't help overhearing
what you were saying.

You're the bloke
that took Soho by storm

and then it all went tits up.

Yeah. Yeah, that's me.

Well, you must have heard of
The Shock of the New.

- Of course, yeah.
- Just think about it.

When people
first encountered modernism,

a lot of them became disturbed.
Properly went mental.

- Like me, you mean?
- Exactly.

Your average Joe Bloggs couldn't
understand artists like Picasso.

Nor do I, to tell you the truth.

People had never seen
images like that before

and got properly freaked out.

It's as though art itself

had been reinvented
for the modern world.

For the new age
of mass production.

When you think about the whole
sweep of human history,

when you really think about it,

it's only up until recently

that people were living
in the Dark Ages.

What did they do for fun?

They read books, they went to
the opera, and shit like that.

And they put pen to paper
and wrote letters.

At the weekend
they went to the local tavern

for something
called a sing-song.

Most of them believed in God.

It was the age of innocence.

And the Raconteurs, your mates,
are part of that tradition.

They might carry mobile phones

but really they're still living
in the last century.

I guess so.

Your mates have given you
a great education,

but it's time to take it
to the next level.

Time to embrace
the 21st century.

And we'll teach you
everything we know.

I like what you're saying

but I can't learn any more
at this point.

My brain's full
and I need a rest.

We understand
where you're coming from.

But the point is that maybe
the shock, the rupture,

could be used in a good way.

- To help you.
- Like therapy?

Yeah. Like therapy.

Confront yourself
with modern art,

find some really fucked-up shit,

look at it and see what happens.


Excuse me.


No, I didn't forget. No. I'll be
with you as soon as I can. Bye.

I'll think about what you said,
but right now I've gotta run.

I think he's the one
we've been looking for.

- Thanks for coming back.
- I need to make some money.

That's a language
I can understand.

It's not what you think.

Hello, Jim.

Paul was impressed
by your talent last time

and so we thought we might look
at a series of paintings

and see what your reaction is.

You mean, see if
they're worth any money?

Well, that's to put it
rather crudely, but yes.

You could see it as a service
to the community.

How do you work that one out?

Well, it's important that people
can distinguish

between what is real
and what is fake, after all.

- I really shouldn't be here.
- Look...

Stop beating yourself up.
Let's just get on with it.

Come here.

Don't feel
you have to rush, Jim.

If it comes,
it comes. Take your time.

- Is this a good sign?
- It's a great sign.

What does it mean?

It means it's a genuine Titian.

Great work.
Just a couple more to go.

It's beautiful.

It's by Giorgione. Are you sure?

With a reaction like that,
it must be genuine.

- I need to stop now.
- Just a couple more.

- It won't take long.
- No, please, I need to stop.

- Take that.
- I need to stop right now!

Where are you going?
Jim! Wait! Where are you...?

Sorry, mate.

You know nothing
about art. Nothing.

Anything you know, you read in
a book in a library somewhere.

Name me one great artist

who came from
that stinking backwater.

You can't understand art

unless you know
what it's like to suffer.

Stop looking
so sorry for yourself.

No one said
being a muse was easy.

I'm not a muse any more.

Inspiring great art
isn't something you choose.

It just happens.

You're stuck with it.

Like your looks,
until they fade,

which, believe me, they will.

Thanks for the tip.

Look, just get back out there
and enjoy it while it lasts.

Yes, there were five of us once.

I was gonna ask. What happened
to the previous lad?

We don't talk about him
any more.

But why?

He was beautiful but he craved
another kind of life.

For someone's who's riding
such a huge wave of success,

why do you always manage
to look like shit?

I've got a lot on my mind.

Has no one ever talked to you
about the work/life balance?

I just need to rest, that's all.

Here. Take this.

What's this?

- It's money.
- I know it's money.

Money's what I've spent
my whole life begging for.

Well, I've come to tell you
your begging days are over.

Your days as an artist
have just begun.

I wish I knew what the fuck
you were talking about.

I'm talking about your boxes.

A box, my friend,

is a place for me to park my
arse whilst I sort my shit out.

No, it's not.
It's more than that.

It's a lot more than that.

I've seen them. Trust me.
I know what I'm talking about.

I don't believe you do know what
the fuck you're talking about.

But I ain't about to kick
a gift horse in the mouth.

So I'll accept your kind offer.
All right?

Anyone fancy a dance?

Yeah. Why not?

Amazing, these blokes.

But I've been thinking,
the time for dancing is over.

The time for action
has arrived.

I came down here
looking for adventure.

And what I found was friendship

and beauty.

Other people's beauty.

That might be enough for
some people, but not for me.

I want to create my own beauty.

And I think I'm ready now.

Subtitles by explosiveskull