Savage Messiah (1972)

Savage Messiah (1972), produced and directed by Ken Russell.

Another entry in the director's "lives of the artists" series, this time about Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (previously unknown to me), a young French sculptor who fell in love with a much older Polish woman, a writer. He died in the WW1 trenches, age 23.

The first half is remarkably fine-looking: a colorful, well-photographed, vigorous love story. Many of his earlier biopics were made for TV and were constrained by the small box; his later ones (Lisztomania (1975)) become too strange to enjoy. Here he takes full advantage of the big screen and shows a skilled eye for relaxed, natural composition.

Then the director's innate excessiveness comes out and the story becomes more silly and irritating. Gangs of artists tend to be loud, rude and expansively affected. I think this is supposed to indicate their genius, but it's probably Russell's soul as well. The plot stops making any progress.

Young Helen Mirren models all of her abundant charms; see Michael Powell's Age of Consent (1969) for more of the same by same. She really didn't want to do it and considered breaking her leg instead. But she seems very relaxed on screen. Full frontal Helen.

A Warner Archive title, "Remastered Edition", and it does look pretty good. I don't see it for rent anywhere: Deep Discount's price is quite a bit better than Amazon's.