2000; Rated R; 132 Minutes
Johnny Depp: Dean Corso
Frank Langella: Boris Balkan
Lena Olin: Liana Telfer
Emmanuelle Seigner: The Girl
Barbara Jefford: Baroness Kessler
Produced by Mark Allan, Antonio Cardenal, Michel
Cheyko, Wolfgang Glatter, Adam Kempton, Iñaki Núñez, Roman
Polanski, Alain Vannier, Suzanne Wiesenfeld; Directed
by Roman Polanski; Screenwritten by John Brownjohn,
Roman Polanski and Enrique Urbizu; based on the novel
The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte
by DAVID KEYES
notice how all the new movies dealing with some form of
Satanism tend to be extremely absurd? We're living in an
era where anything that tries to be "The Exorcist" or "The
Omen" goes completely overboard--last Thanksgiving saw the
arrival of "End Of Days," featuring a story as ludicrous
as an episode of "The X-Files," and before that we had "Stigmata"
to deal with. While the latter film achieves some thrills,
its nonsensical plot outline prevented the real scares from
ever showing up.
to a certain effect, is the core problem with Roman Polanski's
"The Ninth Gate." Here is a story that almost no one will
be able to comprehend--one that is confusing, odd, dimwitted
and often unbelievable. But I find myself recommending the
picture regardless. Though the premise is considerably shallow,
and it shifts back and forth between intriguing and ridiculous,
the lush imagery presents us with high energy and is so
well shot that we want to keep watching.
movie stars Johnny Depp as a book dealer named Dean Corso,
who specializes in hunting down rare works no matter what
stands in his way (sometimes he is even up against the law).
He has just been given an assignment to hunt down two missing
copies of the book "The Ninth Gate"--the first of which
belongs to Boris Balkan (Frank Langella). The sinister-looking
client wants Corso to compare his version to the missing
two, but knows that finding them will divulge something
more fearsome than even the dealer could imagine.
the plot's details are almost always cloaked behind confusion,
little is known as to what exactly these books offer, although
the majority of the imagery points us in the direction of
Satanism. What is known, I guess, should be taken with a
grain of salt; it is said that the remaining volumes of
"The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows" have significant
differences--some pictures are signed by Aristide Torchia,
and then by Lucifer in another volume. When Corso steps
up to the challenge of finding these rare documents, he
is confronted with a challenge: maneuvering the massive
bloodshed that goes on during his quest. You see, the former
owner of this book, Liana Telfer, is a particularly nasty
woman who will stop at nothing to get the book back, and
in the process unleashes a slew of diabolical plans on Corso's
head. Unfortunately, the script gives into the pressures
of intense sexual activity; long before Telfer is sending
her henchmen out to track down Corso, both he and she make
the film's credit, though, it offers some trance-like characterizations
to help the protagonist on his dangerous journey. There
is one particular person who I especially found fascinating--a
guardian-like female who is played by Polanski's real life
wife, Emmanuelle Seigner. The way she is presented really
intrigues us; her natural beauty is hidden behind dark makeup,
gothic costumes, and sinister contacts that change her eyes
into foreboding orbs. She isn't a very talented actress,
but in a movie about the occult, acting is not always a
images are so challenging and artful that we only wish there
were some more decent plot twists to match them. For awhile
Polanski seems to be headed in the right direction, too;
after a slow start that seemingly lasts for the first hour,
he plunges his characters so far into the plot that each
of their decisions have profound, and often compelling,
outcomes. But the ending is completely dismal--something
that demands the viewer to disregard both logic and basic
human intelligence. Without the visuals, "The Ninth Gate"
would have surely buckled under the pressure of such a mixed
and unrewarding plot.
is a living legend of the cinema, at least in my opinion--his
two masterpieces, "Rosemary's Baby" and "MacBeth," manage
to strike every single cord of genuine psychological terror.
Perhaps being away from the director's chair has turned
him into another Brian DePalma; the lush imagery that has
become his trademark remains in tact while the script bounces
on a fine line between the good, the bad, and the ugly.
That won't stop us from feasting on the eye candy, though.
David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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