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Savage/Love (1981)

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Title: Savage/Love (1981)

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weird, but it works!
10 July 2008 | by (Scotland, United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

This is one of two works by Shirley Clarke (the other is Tongues) that comprises a monologue by an actor to musical accompaniment. It starts off more entertaining than profound. "Can you give me something of yourself?" he asks - speaking as it were to a lover he may have lost. It becomes clear that he is obsessed by a woman ("You, the missing part of me") and is incapable of giving the very thing he asks of her – in other words, a 'part of himself.' His idea of pleasing her, instead of being himself, is to imitate what he thinks she wants. "I designed a special smile for you," he says. And he even wonders if he can be like Mick Jagger for her if this is what she wants.

Interleaved images of the actor and musicians, very fast, produce a 'dreamlike' or Brechtian effect. Maybe the man's unconscious is speaking. Is obsession a lack of awareness of oneself, not 'knowing oneself? The film takes on a more serious note, prompting profound reflections in the viewer, and the actor breaks down, asking the audience, "Which presentation of myself will make you want to touch (me)." Jump cuts are used to underline a stammering section. I was reminded of Steve Reich's work, "Come Out to Show Them" and the way repetition can be a struggle for meaning. Clarke seemed happy with the combined artistic efforts, saying, "Savage Love, the Sam Shepard video piece with Joe Chaiken, was originally written for the theater. It was then taken by me and re-filmed, taped and after that put through a video process that changed it. And both of them, upon seeing the finished product, loved it."


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