6 August 2005 | JuguAbraham
Another Russell snapshot of a creative genius coming to terms with his social environment
Ken Russell did it with Valentino, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, and Lizst. He made British movies of these non-British geniuses, biographical at the obvious level, with satire and pathos lurking beneath the obvious layer. "Savage messiah" is once again a biopic of an eccentric French sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, though not as famous as Russell's three musical composers or the ballet dancer he made films about, yet a gifted French genius (an outsider in British society) who finds a Polish spouse 20 years his senior in real life ("ugly", he calls her in the film), intelligent, creative and sensitive as the sculptor but disinterested in sex. Russell captures the rich world of artist's agents, the rich who frequent art galleries and museums, rich society's rules that give importance of tucking in shirt-tails while appreciating art in museums, the rich copying art and passing the results off as genuine works...
Russell's film captures the brave suffragettes (in the character of Gosh Boyle, played by the stunning young Dame Helen Mirren, who even appears nude) who are not averse to sex and nudity and contrasts them with the lead character of Sophie Brzeska (a charismatic portrayal by Dame Dorothy Tutin), who never takes off her clothes and is openly averse to sex.
The director makes the viewer virtually taste the cabbage in the soup made by the poor artists as the rich agent savors the bad concoction. That is an example of Russel at his best.
The film is a love story--an unusual one. There is sexual energy that exudes in the cutting of cabbages by Dame Dorothy that seems to have been copied decades later in the vegetable chopping by Cate Blanchett in the recent film "Bandits". The death of the artist is captured by still photographs of the World War and his spouse viewing his sculptures in a public gallery.
The film is a remarkable work of two great actors--Dame Dorothy Tutin and Dame Helen Mirren--honored by the British Queen much after the film was made.
Russell and set designer Derek Jarman dishes out a movie that may not be outstanding but worthy of note to any one who appreciates the genius among artists and what they have to battle against in the quest to state the truth and tear down pretensions in society. It is a tragic tale of a genius nipped in the bud. Only his spouse, herself a loser among "geniuses", seems to realize this.