Sunday, October 28, 2007

London Film Fest Day 12 - SAVAGE GRACE

It's a story so delicious, you couldn't make it up. The suave heir to an industrial fortune marries a beautiful social climber. They lead a life of privelege and ease in the summer resorts of Europe. She is embarassingly over-ambitious for her delicate young son. All three have casual sex with alarming alacrity. No-one is off limits. Nothing is unexpected. And then, after an hour or two of bed-hopping, the young son and mother indulge in the only coupling as yet untried. The fuck each other. He kills her. He orders chinese take-out and waits for the cops.

All this is true. But so much is left out. We never learn of Barbara Baekeland's disgust at her son's homosexuality. We never see that she seduces him in an attempt to turn him heterosexual, rather than out of careless boredom. We never see Tony exhibit signs of mental illness - the murder is not foreshadowed in anything he says or does. As a result, the movie lacks momentum or narrative drive. It just drifts across the screen - one scene of boredom and casual sex after another. You never understand why any of the characters do anything, much less care. Even during acts of incest or murder, the dull tedium of their lives has infected the movie-goer to the point where we couldn't care less. Things aren't helped by the lack of context in the production design. Apart from one scene in the Stork Club we never see the Baekelands as social animals, living fast in glamourous parties or nightclubs. Maybe this was due to a budgetary constraint? The result is that visually, this is rather a dull film. There's also a sort of prudishness when it comes to the sex scenes. They are hinted at but never shown - certainly this movie has none of the balls-out bravery of Christophe Honoré's

All of this is a tremendous shame. I have great respect for all three lead actors - Moore, Dillane, Redmayne - and the subject matter could have been fascinating. But the movie had a listless, bizarrely prim feel to it. I was utterly unimpressed.

SAVAGE GRACE played Cannes, Toronto and London 2007. It opens in the US, Spain and Turkey in 2008.

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