NEW MOVIES - IWTV
DIRECTED BY..NEIL JORDAN
CERT. 18 DURATION: HRS. 2 MINS.
OPENS IN THE UK ON JANUARY 20
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.
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.
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