Savage Messiah (1972)

R | 99-100 mins | Biography | October 1972

Director:

Ken Russell

Producer:

Ken Russell

Cinematographer:

Dick Bush

Production Designer:

George Lack

Production Company:

Russ-Arts Limited
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HISTORY

The following written prologue appears in the onscreen credits: “The story of a young French art student and the lonely Polish woman he met in Paris just before the First World War.” A closing epilogue indicates that Henri Gaudier-Brzeska was killed at the age of twenty-three on 5 Jun 1915 at Neuville St. Vaast, France. The closing credits include thanks to several organizations, including the City of Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, the University of Bristol and the City of Bath. According to Filmfacts , Jeanne Moreau and John McEnery were originally announced for the starring roles of “Sophie” and “Henri.” Savage Messiah marked the motion picture debut of British actor Scott Antony. A Jul 1972 NYT article on the film indicated that the film had an extremely modest budget of $705,000 and that producer/director Ken Russell owned half of it. Fearful of M-G-M taking control of the editing, which had occurred with other studios on earlier releases, Russell made an agreement that his edit run for at least three weeks before any studio-imposed edits take effect.
       Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (1891--1915) was a French sculptor who was enormously prolific for a short period and his work is considered representative of Cubism. Near the end of the film, several shots of Gaudier’s real works are intercut with shots of Sophie and others at the exhibition. Gaudier was also associated with the short-lived Vorticist movement, developed by British painter and author Wyndham Lewis and writer Ezra Pound. As depicted in the film, Gaudier met Polish would-be writer Sophie Brzeska (1878--1925) while studying in Paris and the pair ... More Less

The following written prologue appears in the onscreen credits: “The story of a young French art student and the lonely Polish woman he met in Paris just before the First World War.” A closing epilogue indicates that Henri Gaudier-Brzeska was killed at the age of twenty-three on 5 Jun 1915 at Neuville St. Vaast, France. The closing credits include thanks to several organizations, including the City of Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, the University of Bristol and the City of Bath. According to Filmfacts , Jeanne Moreau and John McEnery were originally announced for the starring roles of “Sophie” and “Henri.” Savage Messiah marked the motion picture debut of British actor Scott Antony. A Jul 1972 NYT article on the film indicated that the film had an extremely modest budget of $705,000 and that producer/director Ken Russell owned half of it. Fearful of M-G-M taking control of the editing, which had occurred with other studios on earlier releases, Russell made an agreement that his edit run for at least three weeks before any studio-imposed edits take effect.
       Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (1891--1915) was a French sculptor who was enormously prolific for a short period and his work is considered representative of Cubism. Near the end of the film, several shots of Gaudier’s real works are intercut with shots of Sophie and others at the exhibition. Gaudier was also associated with the short-lived Vorticist movement, developed by British painter and author Wyndham Lewis and writer Ezra Pound. As depicted in the film, Gaudier met Polish would-be writer Sophie Brzeska (1878--1925) while studying in Paris and the pair became involved, eventually taking each other’s last names. Brzeska did not recover from the shock of Gaudier’s death and died in an asylum in 1925.
       As noted in Filmfacts , Savage Messiah was filmed in Bath, Bristol, Weymouth and Arundel, England with interiors shot at Lee International Studios. A modern source adds Sidney Kean to the cast and indicates that producer-director Ken Russell made a cameo appearance. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
23 Oct 1972
p. 4533.
Daily Variety
17 Oct 1972.
---
Filmfacts
1972
pp. 578-82.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Feb 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Feb 1972
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Apr 1972
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Oct 1972
p. 4, 23.
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
16 Apr 1972
Section G, p. 1, 6.
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
17 Oct 1972.
---
Los Angeles Times
20 Oct 1972
Section IV, p. 8.
New York Times
16 Jul 1972.
---
New York Times
9 Nov 1972
p. 55.
Newsweek
20 Nov 1972.
---
The Times (London)
15 Sep 1972.
---
Variety
4 Feb 1972.
---
Variety
13 Sep 1972
p. 24.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Asst cam
Lighting contractors
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Artist
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set des
Set dresser
Prop master
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward supv
MUSIC
Orig mus
SOUND
Dubbing mixer
Dubbing ed
MAKEUP
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod assoc
Prod assoc
Cont
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book Savage Messiah by H. S. Ede (New York, 1931).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Two Fleas," composed by Dorothy Tutin.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
October 1972
Premiere Information:
Venice Film Festival screening: 31 August 1972
Los Angeles opening: 18 October 1972
Production Date:
7 February--late April 1972 at Lee International Studios, Ltd., London
Copyright Claimant:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
Copyright Date:
4 October 1972
Copyright Number:
LP41305
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Metrocolor
Lenses/Prints
Prints processed at Rank Laboratories
Duration(in mins):
99-100
MPAA Rating:
R
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1910 Paris, Polish former governess Sophie Brzeska meets boisterous, young, French artist Henri Gaudier at a library. Discovering that Sophie is an aspiring writer, working on a novel entitled Truth: A Novel of the Spirit , Henri enthusiastically lectures her on his beliefs that art must not simply represent life, but actively encourage it in others. When a crowd gathers to listen to Henri’s effusive rant, he declares that art has the ability to be revolutionary. After gendarmes break up the crowd, Henri tells Sophie they should marry or live together to combine forces to make great art. Somewhat skeptical, Sophie agrees to allow Henri to walk her home, but cautions him that she has never liked men and loathes sex. Undaunted, Henri predicts a great future for them, yet at the door to Sophie’s flat, Henri blithely comments on her being much older than he and, offended, she slams the door in his face. A few days go by during which Sophie expects to find Henri at the library, but when he fails to appear, she searches for him at his place of employment. To her surprise, Sophie realizes Henri and several other young artists are illegally forging great works. Henri, who is pleased to see Sophie, assures her that forging is a good way to practice and earn money, and declares that one day his works will be forged. Sophie then invites Henri to her flat to eat a sparse meal and confides the difficulties she endured growing up when her mother refused to support her artistic aspirations. ... +


In 1910 Paris, Polish former governess Sophie Brzeska meets boisterous, young, French artist Henri Gaudier at a library. Discovering that Sophie is an aspiring writer, working on a novel entitled Truth: A Novel of the Spirit , Henri enthusiastically lectures her on his beliefs that art must not simply represent life, but actively encourage it in others. When a crowd gathers to listen to Henri’s effusive rant, he declares that art has the ability to be revolutionary. After gendarmes break up the crowd, Henri tells Sophie they should marry or live together to combine forces to make great art. Somewhat skeptical, Sophie agrees to allow Henri to walk her home, but cautions him that she has never liked men and loathes sex. Undaunted, Henri predicts a great future for them, yet at the door to Sophie’s flat, Henri blithely comments on her being much older than he and, offended, she slams the door in his face. A few days go by during which Sophie expects to find Henri at the library, but when he fails to appear, she searches for him at his place of employment. To her surprise, Sophie realizes Henri and several other young artists are illegally forging great works. Henri, who is pleased to see Sophie, assures her that forging is a good way to practice and earn money, and declares that one day his works will be forged. Sophie then invites Henri to her flat to eat a sparse meal and confides the difficulties she endured growing up when her mother refused to support her artistic aspirations. Asserting that she is dedicated to the life of a writer despite the extreme poverty and hardship, Sophie wearily admits that when she was Henri’s age, she, too, had prospects and hopes. Encouraging him to be great, Sophie is pleased when Henri, touched by her confessions, sketches her. The next day Henri laughingly tells Sophie he will take her to see his “mother,” meaning the Louvre art gallery. Once inside the grand museum, however, the couple’s animated response to various works and Henri’s refusal to tuck in his shirt agitates the attendants who finally succeed in throwing the pair out. Furious, Henri declares he will abandon his “mother” and never set foot in the museum again. To Sophie’s dismay, Henri then invites her to genuinely meet his parents who are tenants on a country estate. Conventional and stiff, the Gaudiers are displeased with Sophie’s plain appearance and age, but she and Henri have a wonderful day away from the crowds and noise of the city. When Henri suggests that they “plight their troth,” Sophie proposes that to indicate their respect and affection for each other they should exchange last names, declare themselves brother and sister and that each is the other’s only true love. Later, Henri listens sympathetically as Sophie describes the frustrations of being a governess to a family in which the wife became suspicious and the husband too demanding, and admits she came to Paris to commit suicide, but was overcome by fear. Just then, the couple is interrupted by the arrival of the village mayor, several village elders and the Gaudiers. The mayor reads an anonymous letter stating that Sophie is using the estate dairy building as a place to rendezvous with men and asks her to depart. Angry and ignoring his parents’ plea to let Sophie depart alone, Henri leaves with Sophie and they head to London. There, Henri takes up construction work while Sophie tries begging. They set up a shabby dwelling under a street by the train tracks although Sophie is agitated by the constant noise. Upon receiving a job offer as a clerk for fifty-five shillings a month, Henri responds effusively and, embracing Sophie, tries to kiss her, but she breaks away from him and suggests he go elsewhere to satisfy his physical urges. When Henri points out that he has no money, Sophie gives him five shillings and firmly tells him to find a prostitute. Although disappointed, Henri agrees and returns home with sketches of a nude woman but insists he will always love Sophie. At work, Henri’s boss, Mr. Saltzman, introduces him to corpulent art dealer Angus Corky, whom Henri playfully calls “Porky,” and whom he invites to dinner to look at his work. At dinner that evening, Porky expresses his appreciation of Henri’s work and offers to buy a single sketch for five pounds, which sends Henri into delirium. When Porky admits he will have to get the money the next day, however, Sophie suspects him of cheating Henri. Over the next few weeks, Henri continues making sketches of life all over London and accepts a dinner invitation from Porky to meet several of his bohemian friends including renowned art dealer Lionel Shaw. Porky’s friends are somewhat taken aback by Henri and Sophie’s eccentric behavior and when Henri boasts that he prefers working with marble, Shaw asks to see his latest work. Even though he has not yet begun the piece, Henri describes the work as a woman’s torso and arranges to show it to Shaw the next morning at 9 a.m. After the party, Henri, Sophie and Porky ransack a nearby cemetery to find an appropriate piece of marble that they steal and cart back to the couple’s dwelling. There, Henri spends all night working on the stone and has a completed figure well before the appointed time. When he receives a telegram from Shaw regretfully stating he had a prior engagement at his gallery, a furious Henri transports the torso to the gallery where he hurls it through the window. Henri is briefly arrested, and although he is released when Shaw drops charges and Porky pays for the damage, he loses his job. Unable to endure the constant emotional upheaval of living with Henri, Sophie confides in Porky that she has taken a governess job on the coast to get away for a spell. Although Henri is saddened by Sophie’s departure, as soon as she leaves, he goes in search of women and soon meets Gosh Boyle, a shapely and enthusiastic suffragette with whom he starts a lively affair. Some weeks later, Henri visits Sophie to reveal that Porky has arranged an exhibition for him provided Henri can create enough new works. Utterly delighted for him, Sophie nevertheless again refuses to have sex with Henri, but vaguely agrees to consider marrying him when he becomes famous after the exhibition. Back in London, Henri takes a commission from Gosh’s military officer father in addition to working feverishly on his show. When Sophie unexpectedly returns and finds Henri with Gosh, she is furious and drives Gosh away. Undaunted, Henri is dismayed when Sophie insists on finding her own lodgings and demands she keep her promise to marry him after the exhibition. Europe falls into chaos with the beginning of war, but Henri ignores the conflict to work on his art. When Gosh, who has become an army nurse, visits Henri before heading to France, she accuses him of cowardice, but he insists that art is necessary to society in time of war. Nevertheless, several weeks later, when Henri reads of the fall of Rheims and the threat to Paris, he abruptly enlists. Refusing to believe that he has joined the army, Sophie does not see Henri when he calls upon her the night before his departure and is shocked the next day to learn he has returned to France. In his absence, Sophie and Henri correspond and she vows to marry him on his return. Just before the exhibition, however, Henri is killed at the front, and the bereft Sophie and Porky are left to manage the exhibit alone. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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