Monday, November 8, 2021

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain: Victorian Surrealist

Claire Foy and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Electrical Life of Louis Wain.

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain, which had a brief life in art houses and is now available on Amazon Prime, evokes the great Victorian and Edwardian children’s stories, like the Alice books and the Mary Poppins books, though it’s mostly for adults (children who aren’t knocked off kilter by sad tales will love it, too), and in other ways it recalls the nutcake Ealing comedies of the fifties. It tells the true story of a Victorian eccentric, the illustrator Louis Wain (played by Benedict Cumberbatch), whose whimsical, proto-surrealist sketches of cats – initially inspired by a stray he and his wife Emily (Claire Foy) discover in their garden in the rain, adopt and fall in love with – alter the perceptions of English people when they began to appear in The Illustrated London News in the 1880s. (Strange as it seems, felines have not always been cherished as household pets.)