The Electrical Life of Louis Wain (2021)
January 14, 2022 9:22 AM - Subscribe

English artist Louis Wain rises to prominence at the end of the 19th century for his surreal cat paintings that seemed to reflect his declining sanity. Benedict Cumberbatch and Claire Foy star in this affecting biopic of the Victorian painter whose enthusiasms were overtaken by mental illness.
posted by jouke (5 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The movie title appeared on the marquee of the local repertory theater down the street a while ago. I no longer read movie reviews on a regular basis so I thought to myself "Ah! A documentary perhaps?"
So I attended a matinee and oh, there's Cumberbatch. Well now, this is actually turning out to be a delightful period piece, though I find myself grinding my teeth at all of the class and gender roles that Wain and family struggle with.
Oh no, his wife has cancer. And his mental illness just keeps getting worse.
I went through about a half dozen tissues for the rest of the movie.
Now he can speak cat? They introduced that for a couple of scenes and it never really went anywhere.
And then all of a sudden Nick Cave. Who is apparently H.G. Wells. Even though he doesn't look a thing like Wells and they didn't bother to dress him up. Just sort of "OK fanboy, here ya go!" Ballsy but me likey. I kind of wish they'd asked David Tibet too, that would've been epic.
posted by The Ardship of Cambry at 2:41 PM on January 14, 2022 [2 favorites]

Ardship, I, too, wept my way through this, and often happy tears. I thought it would be a folksy family-friendly somethingorother - I’m still not sure exactly who the audience was intended to be, but I liked it that way!
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 11:55 PM on January 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

We chanced upon this on Amazon Prime a month or so ago. Surprisingly good little film, about someone I'd never heard of before (though I'm sure I've seen his cat paintings over the years). Never found a Cumberbatch movie I didn't like, and this held up.
posted by lhauser at 11:05 AM on January 15, 2022

I was so moved by this film, and sad too. What they did to him was terrible, but I'm so glad in the end he had a little peace. When the man inspecting the asylum recognized him, I am pretty sure I cried, too. Cumberbatch is making it hard for me to keep hating him lately. Also, I really loved Claire Foy in this--their relationship and their love for the cat were just so beautiful.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 2:00 PM on January 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

It was good to see the story of Louis Wain so charmingly (and tragically) fleshed out. Many may only have know of him from their old Psych 101 class, where his increasingly psychedelic cat paintings were used as an illustration of the progression of schizophrenia.

(That assessment is now being called into question: "In December 2012, psychiatrist David O’Flynn, at a gallery talk at an exhibition of 'Kaleidoscopic Cats' at the Bethlem Royal Hospital Archives & Museum, proposed viewing the series as the creation of two men—'Louis Wain, who created them, and Walter Maclay (1902–1964), the psychiatrist who organised them into a series.'")
posted by fairmettle at 10:57 PM on January 15, 2022 [5 favorites]

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