4 November 2002 | osloj
Life of a Genius
This film is a wonderful piece devoted to one of the 20th century's greatest literary figures, Antonin Artaud, who in his short life, attempted to create an outrageous and cruel theater which would leave spectators dazzled. Artaud is just released from a mental asylum and is sought out by pretentious bohemians in cafes of Paris, a struggling poet, Jacques Prevel, wants to be introduced to him since he is his hero and he also needs Artauds help in becoming known. What follows is a relationship that develops out of need, the poet Jacques needs Artaud's mentorship and perhaps a handwritten introduction to his poetry and Artaud needs opium to fuel his pain so that he can write before the cancer he has can consume him. "I've survived my own death," Artaud says, and we already understand that Artaud is on the verge of dying a physical death. Sami Frey, who plays Artaud, is simply extraordinary and there is no hint that this man is an actor, this man IS Artaud, everything he says, whether it be random missives on the nature of evil in a fly or movements with his hands, eyes and intense caricature of the face, realizes Artaud's living frenzy.
The scenes are bleak, and the whole film is in black and white with a grainy quality which is simply perfect for the mood. We don't know if Artaud inspires the poet but at the end, Jacques writes, "I knew Antonin Artaud, he is the only man I loved . .. " and with that we realize that one of the greatest figures of man had such a supreme power of words that he will be sorely missed. Long live Artaud.