October 22, 2012

The Ninth Gate (1999)

"A rare book dealer, while seeking out the last two copies of a demon text, gets drawn into a conspiracy with supernatural overtones."

Nine days left until Hallowe'en so it's time for "The Ninth Gate". See what I did there? Don't worry, it probably won't happen again. I doubt that I'll ever rewatch "The Ninth Gate" anytime soon either.

I'm not a Johnny Depp fan and find it kind of disgusting to watch somebody with $200,000,000 and their own island playing a part which absolutely anyone could have done just as well. I know his fizzog sells plenty of movies, but I find him overrated. Johnny Depp sort of reminds me of somebody I used to work with who had the same stupid little beard and reeked of body odour so, unfairly, I imagine him to be much the same.

I'm not going to get all moral on you but seeing Johhny Depp romp around naked with Roman Polanski's younger wife also makes me feel nauseous. Given Roman Polanski's criminal history, it's no surprise that his wife is half his age, but it's still weird to see her used in this way. I suppose she wanted to do it, but it's not right.

As you probably know, Johnny Depp plays the part of a "book detective" who gets hired to track down the last copies of a Satanic tome. With a neo-noir feel to the story, he's reminiscent of Mickey Rourke in "Angel Heart" to some extent. His employer, Boris Balkan (Frank Langella), is hardly Lucifer in disguise, but there are superficial similarities.

I'm not sure if the intention was to rework the "Angel Heart" storyline because I only listened to a few parts of the director's commentary on the DVD. I do know that "The Ninth Gate" was based on a novel about something less Satanic with an ending which faded out in a way that made it almost impossible to conclude satisfactorily here either. Kudos for at least trying to wrap things up, but after nearly two hours of watching a mystery unfold, it was still weak.

The standout for me is Lena Olin who plays Liana Telfer as one of the more truly vicious femmes fatales that I've seen for ages. Not only is she extremely hot but sinister with it. Corso (Johnny Depp) describes her as "dishy", but scary and mad as a bag of cats would also apply. She's certainly got claws and she bites!

It's amusing that so many rich characters in "The Ninth Gate" are all into collecting old books about witchcraft. It's yet another thing for the conspiracy theorists who drag up even though though it's just a trope. Considering the elaborate measures many of the bibliophiles take to safely store their treasures, the rough treatment which the Satanic book that they are all chasing receives is also unintentionally comical. I can't think of any book dealers who would handle such a valuable item without gloves, and I highly doubt that they would smoke all over it or press it onto a photocopier.

Roman Polanski's wife, Emmanuelle Seigner, who plays "The Girl" or "Green Eyes" does a fine job as a demonic sidekick even though her role is never truly explained. Whether she is saving Corso from destruction or leading him to his destiny is flawed thoughout the story. Ultimately, she's there to encourage his bad side, but it's complicated and open to too much interpretation. She's nice to look at when nude even though she has a Maryam d'Abo thing going on with her eyebrows which is distracting.

As for the plot, well, it's a mystery in the same vein as "The DaVnci Code" or "Angels and Demons" but years before Dan Brown even thought about writing them and without any twists. It's a straightforward, "connect the dots" affair with a little bit of horror action along the way. It's actually rather difficult to classify "The Ninth Gate" as a horror movie except for the supernatural elements and the Satanism because it isn't all that scary.

"The Ninth Gate" is a beautiful looking film with a rather sleazy and grubby atmosphere which makes me homesick, but the ending is such a disappointment that it it spoils what could have been another Roman Polanski classic.

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