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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Murder > Crime > Wealth > Incest > Savage Grace (2007/Genius/IFC DVD)

Savage Grace (2007/Genius/IFC DVD)


Picture: C     Sound: B-     Extras: C     Film: C+



Tom Kalin has made many films in his time, but it turns out that only two of them are features.  Swoon (1992) was a prominent part of the Gay New Wave dealing with the murderous duo Leopold and Loeb.  Shot in the grey-scale black and white of the time, it was the first film to focus directly on the relationship of the men (their homosexuality was ignored/vilified in previous versions to various degrees, plus anti-Semitism played a role) resulting in a mixed film with mixed success.  15 years later, he follows that up with Savage Grace (2007) telling the ugly, painful, sad tale of money, power and incest like nothing since Roman Polanski’s Chinatown.  Too bad it is nowhere near as good.


Not that the actors don’t risk all.  Julianne Moore is raw and thankless as Barbara Daly, a woman who is psychotic, marries into money (the Bakelite plastics dynasty) and it is a crazy relationship for the books.  They even have a child.  As her son Tony (Eddie Redmayne, who narrates as the character’s highly damaged first person) covers his story and hers.  He has to take care of her at times, he finds out he is gay, she is domineering of everyone around her and eventually, she cuts into his gay relationship and the incestual implications become increasing explicit to the point of no return.


It is very ugly and horrific not just because of the acts, but of implication to the narrative context and the reality of the matter.  No matter how historically accurate (and it seems on the money for the most part) it reminds us that money and power are not always a haven for happiness and wellness.  However, despite its daring, the film has no ironic distance from its material and though I did not mind its cold nature (it could be no other way considering the content), I did feel it had the same problem Swoon had in that Kalin thinks showing things (graphic freedom included) is sufficient to show the events in full, but that is not the case.  I give him credit for having the guts to do such an ugly and honest film, but his monotone approach hinders him from making a breakthrough or even a big statement about these events.  In the end, we are not surprised at anyone’s fate, like The Grifters with fewer dimensions.  Still, if you can handle the material and like the actors enough, you’ll have to see it at least once for yourself, but brace yourself.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image may be in color, sometimes good color, but is much softer than expected and though there is not smearing, but clean is not clear here.  This was shot on 35mm film, but it just does not always look it.  Director of Photography Juan Miguel Azpiroz shoots this to look rich and to keep us in mind that we are always in disconnected areas of money and emptiness on some level.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is dialogue-based and has some good surround activity besides its Fernando Velázquez score, all of which is fine for this kind of drama.  Extras include a behind the scenes featurette and back story featurette.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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