Thursday, June 26, 2014

Interview With a Vampire

Interview With a Vampire"Libera me, Domine, de vitae aeterna" "Free me, Lord, from eternal life": If a movie begins with a choir and boy soprano singing these words, in a requiem's style and overlaying the camera's sweeping move over nightly San Francisco bay, zooming in on a Victorian building's top-floor window after having followed the life on the street below like a hunter follows its prey if a movie begins like this, you know you're not looking at your average flick, whatever its subject. (And if the first thing you catch is the Latin phrase's grammatical mistake, this is probably not your kind of movie to begin with).

Much-discussed even before its release, due not least to Anne Rice's temporary withdrawal of support and her no less sensational subsequent 180-degree turn, Neil Jordan's adaptation of the "Vampire Chronicles"' first part, based on Rice's own screenplay, is a sumptuous production awash in luminous colors, magnificent period decor and costumes, rich fabrics, heavy crystal, elegant silverware and gallons of deeply scarlet blood, supremely photographed by Phillippe Rousselot, with a constant undercurrent of sensuality and seduction; an audiovisual orgy substantiated by one of recent film history's most ingenious scores (by Elliot Goldenthal). Although the book only gained notoriety after the publication of its sequel "The Vampire Lestat," followed in short order by the "Chronicles"' third installment, "The Queen of the Damned," by the time this movie was produced, Rice had acquired a large and loyal fan base, who would have been ready to tear it to shreds had it failed to meet their expectations. That this was not unanimously the case is in and of itself testimony to Neil Jordan's considerable achievement (only underscored by the botched 2002 realization of "Queen of the Damned"). Sure, some decry the plot changes vis-a-vis the novel and the fact that some of the protagonists (particularly Louis and Armand) look different from Rice's description. But others have embraced the movie wholeheartedly; praising it for remaining faithful to the fundamentalities of Rice's story and for its production values as such. I find myself firmly in the latter corner; indeed, in some respects I consider this one of the rare movies that are superior to their literary originals primarily because the story's two main characters, Louis and Lestat, gain considerably in stature and complexity compared to Rice's book.

While both film and novel are narrated by Louis (Brad Pitt), giving an interview to a reporter (Christian Slater) in the hope of achieving some minimal atonement for 200 years of sin and guilt, and while Lestat (Tom Cruise) appears on screen barely half the movie's running time, Lestat is much more of a central character than in Rice's novel; and vastly more interesting. For Anne Rice's Lestat only comes into his own in the "Chronicles"' second part, which is named for him and where we truly learn to appreciate him as the vampire world's aristocratic, arrogant, wicked, intelligent and unscrupulous "brat prince," who although completely lacking regret for any of his actions nevertheless shows occasional glimpses of caring, even if he would never admit thereto. *This*, however, is exactly the movie's Lestat; not the comparatively uninformed and, all things considered, even somewhat brutish creature of Rice's first novel. It is no small feat on Tom Cruise's part to have accomplished this; and in my mind his portrayal has completely eclipsed the character's original conception, which was reportedly based on Rutger Hauer's Captain Navarre in "Ladyhawke."

Similarly, while every bit as guilt-ridden as the character created by Anne Rice, Brad Pitt's Louis regains more inner strength and more quickly so than the narrator of Rice's book, rendering him more of an even foil for Lestat, and equally lending greater credibility to his initial selection as Lestat's companion, his actions to ensure his and Claudia's escape to Europe, and his later decision not to stay with Armand. (Indeed, Louis's and Armand's separation after the burning of the Theatre of the Vampires makes perfect sense in the movie's context; it would have undercut both characters', but especially Louis's credibility had they gone on to share years of companionship like in the book.)

Kirsten Dunst's Claudia was not only this movie's biggest discovery not surprisingly, in an interview included on the DVD Dunst calls this "the most prominent role" of her career so far she, too, embodies the novel's child vampire to absolute perfection; capturing her eternally childlike features as well as her Lolitaesque seductiveness and the ruthless killer hidden under her doll-like appearance. Doubtlessly furthest from the novel's character is Antonio Banderas's powerful and charismatic Armand: But while I do somewhat miss Rice's auburn-haired "Botticelli angel," I always had a problem imagining him as the leader of the Paris coven, in control even of the quicksilver-like Santiago (marvelously portrayed by Stephen Rea in one of his most overtly theatrical performances). Here, too, the movie if anything gives the story greater credibility; although it's admittedly hard to reconcile with parts of the "Chronicles"' later installments, particularly Armand's own biography.

In interviews, Neil Jordan and Brad Pitt particularly have mentioned the emotional strain that this movie put on all its participants; due its almost exclusively nightly shooting schedule, and even more so because of its incessant exploration of guilt, damnation and, literally, hell on earth. Anne Rice's vampires truly are the ultimate outsiders; no longer part of human society, they feed on it, can neither be harmed by sickness nor by methods the world has taken for granted ever since Bram Stoker's "Dracula" (which are in fact merely "the vulgar fictions of a demented Irishman," as Louis explains, simultaneously amused and contemptuous) and are thus, if not killed by fire and/or beheading, condemned to walk the earth forever, without any hope of redemption. It is primarily this element which has given Rice's novels their lasting appeal, and which is perfectly rendered in Jordan's adaptation. I'm still not sure I'd ever want to meet them in person, though ...

Also recommended:

Complete Vampire Chronicles (Interview with the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat, The Queen of the Damned, The Tale of the body Thief)

The Vampire Companion


Bram Stoker's Dracula (Collector's Edition)

Let me begin by saying that I have not read the book and am judging the movie solely on its own merits. "Interview with the Vampire" is a luscious, guilty pleasure of modern filmmaking, visually resplendent and with wonderful performances by all (including Christian Slater, Antonio Banderas and Stephen Rea). It follows the adventures of Louis de Pont du Lac (Brad Pitt), a 200-year-old vampire hailing from Louisiana, as he recounts the story of his life (and unlife) to interviewer Daniel Malloy (Christian Slater). Along the way we meet his maker Lestat de Lioncourt (Tom Cruise), his "daughter" Claudia (Kirsten Dunst), and Armand (Antonio Banderas), leader of the Parisian vampires.

Tom Cruise, in my mind, perfectly portrays the elder vampire Lestat...beautiful, cunning, selfish, a seducer, many of the same qualities present in Armand, and possesses an excess of dark humour. Brad Pitt's Louis still clings to the last shreds of his humanity...his sense of right and wrong, the value of life, the horror of killing in order to survive (angstmaster Nick Knight from "Forever Knight" springs to mind). There is a lack of onscreen romantic tension between Cruise and Pitt...something that makes their relationship seem less immediate and binding. However, there is definitely a spark between Louis and Armand (Antonio Banderas), and it was easy to believe that Louis was tempted to stay as a companion to such an intelligent, beautiful vampire who could teach him the answers to his questions. Kirsten Dunst is phenomenal as Claudia, the vampire with the mind and desires of a woman eternally trapped in the body of a doll-child.

The visuals are lavish, moody, stunningly brilliant, especially the world of 1800's New Orleans with its brocades, silks, and elaborate dresses. The atmosphere is appropriately dark, with plenty of fog and menacing nighttime damp. Elliot Goldenthal's score is string-driven, pulsing, tense, and underscores the action perfectly, the crowning piece being "Libera Me".

Yes, this film is graphic at times, including two very graphic scenes involving mutilation, numerous "feedings," homoeroticism, and brief nudity, but "Interview with the Vampire" is an unconventional drama that probes the meaning of life, death, love, seduction, and regret. More than anything Anne Rice's vampires make us realize the conventions and trappings of humanity.

Buy Interview With a Vampire Now

5 stars out of 5 = Masterpiece

Elegant, sophisticated, beautifully scripted, acted, paced, & filmed, "Interview with the Vampire" is among my top five favorite Vampire movies. No other Vampire film, other than Gary Oldman's Oscar worthy performance in "Bram Stoker's Dracula," delves as deep in a character study of Vampires & how it would be like to be a Vampire from their point of view.

A broad 200 year perspective of the life of Brad Pitts Vampire character, "Louie," the reluctant Vampire who finally succumbs to his fate of feeding on human blood, & in his quest for enlightenment of what he is, he finds out, if anything, he is a Vampire.

The story of a surprisingly great performance of Tom Cruise's, "Lestat," who sees "the dark gift" as everything he could ever want, except companionship, what he wants the most, & realizes the least. Cruise steals the show in his glee for sucking the blood out of the living, & his indignation for turning "Louie" in to a Vampire that still has respect for human life, in a barrage of cold blooded murders, & ranting at "Louie" with black comedic hilarity, yet shocking indifference to life, to the point of sadomasochism . Also, a very young Kristen Dunst's, "Claudia", who also steals the show & matches Lestat bite for bite in the quest for blood, & the sport it brings. A hugely great & complicated performance for such a young girl!

"Interview with the Vampire" is a thinking man's horror film, one that reaches down deep, not just to bring you cheap scares & shallow predictable characters, but a rich tapestry of what it means to be a Vampire, & all the consequences that goes with it.

Read Best Reviews of Interview With a Vampire Here

I haven't cared very much for Anne Rice's recent books, but her earlier work was outstanding. I loved "Interview" in particular, so I was really looking forward to this movie. There is always a risk in adapting such a vivid and powerful-not to mention beloved-book into a film. Director Neil Jordan and his collaborators have succeeded marvelously, though. This is an exciting, engaging film; remarkably faithful to Rice's original text.

The story opens in present day San Francisco. Louis (Brad Pitt), a 200 year-old vampire, is telling his life story to an interviewer (Christian Slater), who is shocked by his supernatural revelation. "I am flesh and blood," Louis tells him, "but not human."

His story takes us back to late 18th century New Orleans where Louis first encountered the Vampire Lestat (Tom Cruise). Desiring a companion, and in love with his beautiful looks, Lestat gives Louis the "Dark Gift"-that is, he makes him into a vampire. They live together for many years, roaming the streets at night, united by their common quest for blood.

Eventually, though, Lestat fears that Louis is going to leave him. Desperate, he makes a vampire of Claudia (Kirsten Dunst), a beautiful young child, knowing the Louis would never leave the girl. Thus they are bonded together as "one big, happy family." As it turns out, though, they are not so happy after all.

The story takes the vampires to Paris, where they finally encounter some more of their own kind. The coven of vampires is led by the stunningly handsome Armand (Antonio Banderas) who quickly falls in love with Louis. Louis is enamored of him as well, but he will never leave little Claudia, something Armand realizes.

The film ends back in the present in a departure from Rice's book. The new twist is exciting, though, and sets up the story for an inevitable sequel. It hasn't been made yet, but if it ever is, I'm looking forward to it.

The big question, of course, is, how is Tom Cruise as Lestat? In one word: brilliant. This is one of his best performances ever, heightened by the fact that he is playing a role so different from his typical screen persona. Cruise has always been an underrated actor, but hopefully that will start to change after people see him here. He is terrific.

The rest of the performances are also quite good. Brad Pitt does very well as the tortured, guilt-ridden Louis. Antonio Banderas is extraordinary as the seductive, young master of darkness. His is the most convincing portrayal of a vampire, filled with power and charisma.

Neil Jordan's direction is top-notch. Visually, "Vampire" is stunning, helped considerably by Dante Ferretti's superb production design. Anyone who has read the book-and anyone who has not-is sure to enjoy this haunting, erotic treat.

Want Interview With a Vampire Discount?

First off as a film, I would give it 4 1/2 stars.

If you own the standard DVD save your money. Almost no difference in picture quality.

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