20.2.11

Savage Grace

The effect so seamless, I didn't even notice it until it was pointed out in the "making of" feature on the DVD -- the film divided into five days, crucial turning points in the narrative. A decision forced by lack of funding, but one that pretty much makes the film what it is. There is no sweep. Rather, it is intensely focused on the detail of family bonds and secrets. Close-ups of revealing looks, faces composing themselves, moods shifting in unpredictable ways. And the pace is masterfully controlled. There is so little gap-filling info that you are constantly engaged thru every transition. And the set-pieces are gloriously put together. A movie full of little crescendos.

As for the content, well Peter Bradshaw can help with that. Father, mother and son all fail at fulfilling their expectations of each other. Barbara has to act the part of high-society wife, but her obsession with keeping up appearances alienates her husband. His presence and demeanor is a constant reminder that she doesn't fit in, and so she uses sex both to fight against and then to conciliate him. Doesn't work, obviously. He settles for sadism and then someone more carefree (and more youthful to boot).

Brooks is oppressed by the legacy of his more successful forebears, and wants his son to be cast in their image. But Tony is a mummy's boy, indolent, and worst of all, gay. Tony both desires the approval of his father, and finds his macho attitude stifling. But after the divorce, mother and son both fall apart -- drawn ever more tightly to each other, and yet repelled by that closeness. Dependance and distance, an embrace and a knife -- constant, concurrent extremes that tear the family apart.

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