Savages Movie Review

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Forget everything you know about Merchant-Ivory movies. Savages, their first American film, begins in the oddest way imaginable: Black and white footage shows us a group of primitive "mud people" participating in tribal rituals. A German voice-over presumably explains the action, documentary style. There are no subtitles. Suddenly, a croquet ball rolls into their midst. The mud people track where it came from and discover an abandoned British manor. They take up residence.

Overnight the film changes completely: Gone is the narrator and the documentary feel. Now the film is in color, and the mud people are no longer savages. They have miraculously evolved into proper ladies and gentlemen, complete with tuxedos, dinner parties, dancing, and plenty of gossip. The absurdity continues, just in a different way. Title cards appear willy-nilly, in various foreign languages. Parlor room conversations contain the kind of pseudo-intellectual nonsense you'd expect, only these statements are nonsense -- the characters saying them are all primitives!

Ivory's message is pretty blatant -- that the bourgeoisie is just as "savage" as language-less Cro-Mags. They engage in tawdry sex acts and even murder. Too bad then that the early part of the film is far more interesting than after the sudden evolution, when the one-joke premise quickly wears thin. But who knew James Ivory had this much of a sense of humor? Not I!

The DVD includes an hour-long documentary by Ivory about Indian scholar Nirad Chaudhuri (which otherwise has nothing to do with Savages), and a brief interview with Ivory and Merchant about the making of Savages.

Cast & Crew

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Comments

Savages Rating

" OK "

Rating: R, 1972

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