Call for Music Writers... Rock, Indie, Hip-hop, R&B, Electronic, Americana, Metal, World and More


Art/Artists as Rebellion/Rebels: 'Savage Messiah'

Bookmark and Share
Friday, May 6, 2011
Another chaotic Ken Russell masterwork hits home video.
cover art

Savage Messiah

Director: Ken Russell
Cast: Scott Antony, Dorothy Tutin, Helen Mirren

(USDVD release date: 12 Apr 2011)

In France, aspiring sculptor Henri Gaudier meets aspiring writer Sophie Brzeska and the two of them live tempestuously if platonically until World War I. In line with his times, Ken Russell presents this story of artists as a celebration of anti-establishment rebels and misfits along the lines of A Fine Madness or Isadora or Russell’s own Debussy Film for the BBC. This long out-of-circulation movie at last arrives on disc as one of Warner Archives’ made-on-demand DVD-Rs.

Gaudier (Scott Antony) and Brzeska (Dorothy Tutin) are presented as something akin to pains in the ass who find sympathy in each other. Gaudier is especially raucous, even buffoonish, and always on the verge of a tiresomeness saved only by his handsome youth. The middle-aged Brzeska has no such refuge, and Russell presents a sharply etched portrait of the bohemian community of opportunistic dealers and arty types who like Gaudier better than the vulgar woman. The convincing atmosphere of pre-war France is presented with Russell’s eye for careful compositions in wide-angle lenses mixed with exuberant moving camerawork and flashy cutting.
So much of this is pure Russell, such as a shot of the naked Helen Mirren (as a spoilt aristocratic turned bomb-throwing suffragist) posed in the middle of a lavish set designed by Derek Jarman. One of the most remarkable sequences shows Gaudier carving a marble sculpture, uttering various observations while he chips and chisels. All at once, we see a serious artist at work. The final sequence is a dazzling parade of some of the museum pieces he left behind, that we can finally understand how this cliched “artistic temperament” got around to producing something real.

On no account should this be confused with a 2002 movie of the same name about a Canadian cult.


Related Articles
By PopMatters Staff
31 Jan 2013
From classics to contemporary television, the typical titles and the surprising outsider choices, the year in home video was just as divisive, and delightful, as the rest of our meaningful media.
13 Jul 2012
The movie is fast, funny, always visual, always musical, always melodramatic in the literal sense.
By PopMatters Staff
28 Jun 2012
PopMatters concludes our 2012 update of the Esssential Film Performances today. Part ten and the final section features Elizabeth Taylor, Twiggy and more...
22 Mar 2012
The ferocity of Russell’s vision represents a kind of multicoloured artistic purging, with close to two hours of invention, energy and madness loaded into a blunderbuss and fired onto the screen in shocking, blasphemous glory.

discussion by
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks

© 1999-2015 All rights reserved.™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.