Ken Russell, known for his campy cult films the Who’s Tommy and Lair of the White Worm, focuses his attention on Victorian painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti who was one of the founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The Pre-Raphaelites were an offshoot of the Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain during the middle oif the 19th century and known for their return to traditional values in both art and design. Russell’s Rossetti is a boorish, philandering, rascal who seems to be very different from the pious, introverted, idealist generally depicted in literature. The film is quite scattered and with its 35mm vaudeville like qualities, only really of interest for hardcore Pre-Raphaelite fans who will recognize the names and works depicted. The film focuses on Rosetti’s relationship with model and wife Lizzie Siddal as well as his other muses and mistresses. The movie is also framed around many of the images from the more popular Pre-Raphaelite paintings such as the Awakening Conscience by Rossetti and the Scapegoat by William Holman Hunt.
Interesting tidbits: Lizzie Siddal died from an overdose of Laudium or as it was referred to in the film, Mother’s Blessing. It is believed to be true that Rossetti buried his poems in Siddal’s casket and later exhumed them.
Geek tidbits: The stream setting which is the abckdrop for much of the film appears based on John Everett Millais’s Portrait of John Ruskin. While Rossetti’s sister Charlotte is depicted as a bit older and dowdy, she was two years younger than him and the passive somewhat cowering model for the Virgin Mary in Rossetti’s early work the Anunciation.
Art Geek Factor:7 out of 10 Stars
Artistic Accuracy:7 out of 10 Stars
Overall Movie: 5 out of 10 Stars
Summary: This is a campy movie about an interesting subject matter. It has been acclaimed as being both facile and extremely complex. With its narration and poems, it is probably a little too esoteric for the casual film viewer and does little to shed further light on the character and art of Rossetti for hardcore fans.
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