luni, 15 iunie 2020

The Ninth Gate (1999)

"Mambo Jumbo , Mambo Jambo...." 
                           (Boris Balkan)
 "I don't believe in the occult. I don't believe. Period."          
 (Roman Polanski)

I saw this film back in 1999, or maybe it was later in 2000, it didn't come out in cinemas over here so I was forced to watch a shitty VHS copy, panned and scanned. I was a huge fan of the Arturo Perez-Reverte book, El club Dumas, his best as far as you ask me, not that I've read any other :), and fascinated with the Alexandre Dumas lost chapter of  Les Trois Musquetaires, Le Vin d'Anjou. It was my faved thiong about that topic then , so I was uber-dissapointed when I saw the film
Let's not forget in 1999 Eyes Wide Shut came out, with the illuminati orgy in a castle, and by those means Polanski 's stuff seems to be more like an irony.  Very Freench too. Also Polanski's New York resembles Kubrick's NY, both being shot in Movielands in Europe.
What strikes you most  looking back at this after 21 years (it's a big hit these days streaming on Netflix), it's uncanny how Johnny Depp plays straight, the 'book detective' Dean Corto  (in the book, Lucas Corto, or LC !). 
*-any Dario Argento influenza ? or topics ? Definetly with Suspiria, and the Three Mothers, mostly Inferno. And adds more Grand Guignol than on regular Polanski !
*-very simillar with Angel Heart, cult film from 1987 by Alan Parker, with Mickey Rourke as Harold Angel, PI and here Frank Langella as Boris ! Balkan !!!, chewing the set-up and standing in for De Niro's Louis Cyphre !
*-as book movies go, this is the closest to a literary film as the puzzle of The Name of the Rose (1985), with who it has special intellectual liasons !
The Ninth Gate (1999)
Amazingly- or not, these days the internet is full of stuff regarding the occult and obscure so, this, as a big critical and box office flop when it came out, made its name from video, dvd, vod and TV. That is where you study shit, my friend-o, surely !
I just link here one silent Kilar's music overt, Esoteric meaning of film video ! from it you'll get more links and dig in if you want, imo the info is quite shallow and takes out the fun of contorversy!
If you have time you'll find a lot to watch and learn :), more than the duration of the film, at the time it was long and dense, but definetly not overlong and/or boring, I would't mind it going on for another 15-20 mins.
Also the ending is so abrupt and yes, controversial. I think it's more or less a Roman Polanski typical (TM/RPTM) black/dark joke.
Huge assets / or +++++++++:
music by Wojciech Kilar, brilliant, majestic, dramatic, a classic on its own ! With a Korean soprano, added the value of Ennio Morricone, and based on La Havaine by Camille Saint-Saens. 
-the whole score from vinyl rip here !
Darius Khondji's only collaboration with Roman is just beutiful ! llate fall location shot in Portugal, spain and France helps :)
Set design:
Dean Tavoularis, master of set and design (wondered if Depp's character Dean in the film came from him or from a real Dean, or James Dean ?, ask Polanski )
Directing -with panache, of course, you can see Polanski's having fun, working with Depp for the fisrt (and only) time, casting his beautiful wife 2.0, Emmanuele Seigner, doing some Hitchcock and even quiting himself (Chinatown, The Tenant, Rosemary's Baby, Frantic, Bitter Moon, etc)
-the script, if you read the novel and liked it it's not your juju
-the albino sidekick -in the novel we had Rochefort, this one is quite risible and dumb (and dumb), no lines til the castle, what if you went with a cliche glasseye or Bela/Lon/Boris/Vincent ? a Cushing/Lee approach ?
-act 3 1/2, I mean the last two castle set pieces are just for laughs, but now seeing it again for the 1st time in a decade, I think more things are intentional here than unintentional, esp the witty dark irony of  R.P.The Ninth Gate (1999)
The New York scenes, obviously faked, but actually it gives a Hitchcockian sense of set, retro projection, old style. Why James Russo, and what you did with it ? 
-watch out for symbolisms, that come out much better on second or repeat viewings. Like Shell, 
Shells ? 
-also loved the way Johnny D. smokes himself silly in every scene, Lucky no filters ? Plus the whisky's. Classic Film noir cliches and homages ! Though, Polanski said of Depp, "He decided to play it rather flat, which wasn't how I envisioned it; and I didn't tell him it wasn't how I saw it"
7 out of 10, *** 1/2 out of Five, 
would've loved this to be a real 9 !

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