Offbeat in subject matter (the platonic yet deeply affectionate love of an extrovert young French sculptor, Henri Gaudier, for an introverted older woman, set early in this century) pic is distinctively Russellian in treatment as well, showing that the British director has lost none of his filmic impudence.
Not unexpectedly played with most stops out, and soundtrack decibels at upper limits, a potentially introverted tale [from H.S. Ede’s book] is instead played broadly and with considerable panache, especially in having the artist portrayed as a physically strong and agile extrovert, and young to boot. A virtual unknown in his first pic role, Scott Antony rises beautifully to the challenge.
More expected, but enjoyable nevertheless, is Dorothy Tutin’s astute and measured delivery as the object of the sculptor’s affection, a would-be writer whose somber reasoning acts as counterpoint to his ebullience, while lending him inner strength. Helen Mirren is eye-filling and able as a women’s lib type (and, incongruously, improvised full-frontal nude model as well), while a number of backdrop roles are colorfully filled by a large back-up cast.
As usual, there’s more style than warmth in Russell’s character relationships. It is only at the end, when one is brought up sharply by the (true-to-life) news of the sculptor’s precocious demise, aged 23, in a World War II battle that some deep-down feeling comes into play.