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(1984)


NEW MOVIES - IWTV
Empire
1995


DIRECTED BY..NEIL JORDAN
STARRING..........TOM CRUISE
BRAD PITT
KIRSTEN DUNST

CERT. 18 DURATION: HRS. 2 MINS. USA
OPENS IN THE UK ON JANUARY 20
 

SEVENTEEN YEARS AFTER IT WAS published, Anne Rice's bestseller finally went into production last year in a blaze of controversy sparked off by the author's vitriolic comments about Tom Cruise's casting as the Vampire Lestat, a dramatic venting of spleen that was even more  bizarrely  followed  by  her surprising volte-face and new-found enthusiasm for the finished product.

Given   such   a   dramatic   and potentially damaging build-up, it's a relief to discover that the movie emerges as a suitably full-blooded effort, a rich, dark, brooding tale, coursing with passion, decadence and copious blood-letting, and not at all the anaemic adaptation that many might have feared.

In part, this is due (rather ironically) to Cruise's casting. Throughout his career, he's hinted at the darkness behind that gleaming smile and here he gives full vent to his villainous side his beatific looks, highlighted by his blond rinse, helping to create the perfect bloodsucker. Praise too for Neil Jordan's extravagant direction, which, aided by Philippe Rousselot's striking   photography   and   Dante Ferretti's decadent production design, produces a twilight zone of murder, death and destruction.

Sticking closely to Rice's book, the film kicks off in modern day San Francisco where the 200-year-old Vampire Louis (Pitt) begins to relate the story of his life to a young interviewer (Christian Slater, replacing River Phoenix). It is a tale that 
begins with the death of plantation owner Louis' wife and child back in New Orleans in the late 18th Century, an event that, for Louis, effectively marks the end of his human existence. The arrival, thereafter, of a vampire called Lestat (Cruise) offers him an escape from his terminable grief with the outside chance of immortality.

Yet, as Louis comes to learn, this grief ultimately pales into insignificance compared with the pain that comes as a consequence of having to slaughter humans in order to feed. Initially he resists, drawing sustenance from rats and other animals, before he succumbs to his condition and sinks his teeth into Claudia (Dunst), a young orphan. 

Refusing to let her die, Lestat instead fashions her into Louis' companion, and thus Claudia becomes his surrogate daughter/lover, a child-woman who remains shackled within the body of a young girl while her brain and appetites grow.

Eventually Louis and Claudia plot to kill their maker, and having escaped Lestat, they travel to Europe in search of fellow blood-suckers and meet Armand (Antonio Banderas) and many more at the Theatre Des Vampires in Paris.

Bold, gruesome and melancholic, this Gothic horrorfest offers us much to sink our teeth into: Cruise who effectively disappears from the screen for half the film's duration is terrific, Dunst eerily
compelling, Banderas hypnotic. If Pitt's Louis is a trifle weak, then that's because his character is a constant whinger.

And any other problems are minor and trifling (the ending is rather crass, but that's Hollywood for you) and on the whole, this is a lot better than we had any right to expect. Indeed, as far as the author is concerned, it is better than the book. * * * * *Mark Salisbury


 





 






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NEW MOVIES - IWTV