(directed by James Ivory, 1972)
*** (out of 5)
> When Ismail Merchant and James Ivory were young, they had not yet found that groove- that straitjacket of propriety that most of their films are seeped in and always trying to outgrow. They were hippies, I think, and this first joint venture shows their proximity to film school.
. SAVAGES is a film only young people could make. It’s a kind of psychedelic concept-film that borders on the experimental. With only two-thirds of a script to peddle to investors, (co-written my morose SNL funnyman Michael O’Donoghue), it’s amazing they were able to raise the jack to make this (pleasantly) weirdo film. I swear it’s exactly the kind of script I was writing in high school, when that old gang of mine was making super 8 films, and afterward when I went to film school:
. A primitive tribe is foraging in the jungle when a magical croquet ball suddenly flies in from the skies and lands in their midst. Having never seen a perfect sphere, they set out in the direction it came from, finding an abandoned mansion, encased in cobwebs. They enter cautiously, set up a shrine for their sacred ball, and begin exploring the house and its contents. Before long they are trying on clothes, seeing their images in mirrors for the first time, and applying makeup. Suddenly the chalky ashen black-and-white gives way to color, as these primitives have morphed into aristocratic sophisticates, living in the mansion like landed gentry, as though they always had. We witness their social dramas, see the games they play, the power/class structure that develops, before the spell is reversed, when the magical croquet ball suddenly files away.
. The tribal section was fascinating, and the rest was loony fun when it worked. When it didn’t, it was easy to forgive in such a clearly experimental film. At least SAVAGES is different than other films. Very, very different than most of what we see released in theaters.
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