Thursday, July 31, 2008

Savage Grace & Brideshead Revisited



There is the misapprehension that serious films of quality are only released in the fall and that the summer is for tentpole bonanzas. The truth is out there if you care to look. Two films in release are as serious, tony, and adult skewering as you are going to see now or at the end of the year. Savage Grace is currently unspooling exclusively at the River Oaks and Brideshead Revisited opens tomorrow at the River Oaks and Market Street 5 in Woodland Hills. I don't even know where the latter theater is but I'm sure it's within a $15 gas radius of Free Press Houston World Headquarters. Perhaps another misapprehension would be that art films only play in central Houston.
Savage Grace places the aud in the middle of an incestuous relationship that ends in murder. The story is true although there is some speculation as to how and if heiress to the Bakelite fortune Barbara Daly Baekeland had sex with her son. As depicted in Savage Grace with an unblinking eye and without trying to personify their actions as bad or evil Mom seduces her son in an effort to cure him of being gay. He subsequently comes, then stabs Mom, calls the police and promptly orders Chinese food to go. If you could even find a Bakelite bracelet from the 1930s and give that as a present to a femme it would be far more cool and rewarding than, say, hopping down to the Galleria to buy said femme a Prada sweater.
Brideshead Revisited whittles the novel into a digestible feature length film. Fans of Evelyn Waugh or the 11-part miniseries from the early 80s will appreciate the eloquent treatment of serious themes offered here. Obviously this film centers on specific relations and jettisons parts of the book. But because it finds the spine of an almost spiritual kinship between middle-class lad Charles Ryder and his trysts with the upper crust Flyte children it works. Charles forms platonic and romantic liaisons that often intertwine and expose to his own doubts about religion and social standing. By exposing the decay of aristocracy in the early 20th century in a subtextual manner within a romance the film outshines the similar Atonement.

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