Thursday, 28 January 2010

Do you find us beautiful, magical? Our white skin, our fierce eyes? "Drink" you ask me, do you have any idea of the thing you will become?

No 281 - Interview with the Vampire
Director - Neil Jordan

I like the way the cinematic vampires are varied beasts. The punks of The Lost Boys are nothing compared to the monsters of From Dusk Till Dawn. There are the strange bat like Nosferatu or the incredibly human Eli. Even Dracula himself has flitted through different versions and completely different styles.
There is no definitive vampire, but I find them fascinating - for me, the most fascinating is the Anne Rice vampire. I love the passion, the glamour and he danger of her vampires. It has been said time and time again that the Vampire story is a thinly veiled allegory for sex. Nowhere is that more evident than in Interview with the Vampire.

The vampires in this film are beautiful creatures that bristle with a dangerous sexual lust. Their skin is white and smooth and their eyes are fierce and unnatural. Almost feline. Maybe it plays to the part of me which yearns to be a dandy, but they are just fabulous. If I were to create a vampire myth, that is the direction I'd have taken.
Our protagonist for this story is Brad Pitt's Louis de Pointe du Lac, a plantation owner from New Orleans who develops one hell of a death wish and who is turned into a vampire by Tom Cruise's Lestat de Lioncourt. We then follow Louis' story as he becomes used to being a vampire and as he lives out a life of endless youth.

Louis is our 'in' to the vampiric world. He is the character that we follow, he is the character that we see as both mortal and immortal, he is our narrator. However he is not the most interesting of characters. Despite having been a vampire for almost 200 years (by the time we meet him in the early 90's) he is not happy with his lot. He doesn't feel comfortable killing people and frequently complains.
No, the most interesting and fun characters are those that relish in the bloodshed. Those that are truly callous and wicked. That is why I love Lestat so much. His character is a lavish and decadent evil. A man who has embraced his demonic blessing and ran with it. He cackles maniacally as people attack him. He flits and he flys, he maims an he kills but always with a smile and an appreciation of the finer things in life.
Lestat killed two, sometimes three a night. A fresh young girl, that was his favorite for the first of the evening. For seconds, he preferred a gilded beautiful youth. But the snob in him loved to hunt in society, and the blood of the aristocrat thrilled him best of all.

Though, what I think I like best about Lestat is that it is Tom Cruise. I can only think of 3 films where Cruise has been an obvious good guy and one he was an arrogant prick that eventually mellow and the second is a comedy cameo. This is the only film (that I can think of) where Cruise is all out malicious, manipulative and horrible. He seems to relish it as well. Each sneer, each giggle, each time he spikes a wrist to drink the blood is met with a look of sheer enjoyment. Hell, the brief ominous sinister moments which he shares with (the beautiful beautiful) Thandie Newton's slave girl have more chemistry then their ENTIRE relationship in MI2.

It is with Lestat that we also see one of the films most striking features, the sexualisation of everything. It seems that blood is more than mere food for the vampires. It is a passion, a yearning, a physical torturous desire. Any exposed area of flesh becomes fetishised by the film. So we get long lingering shots of the rise and fall of a heaving bosom, or the curve of a neck, or a delicate exposed wrist. The sexualisation is continued with the kill, as it nearly always begins with a playful seduction. By the time the vampires are feeding it looks more like they are locked in a passionate and highly sensual embrace. Nearly everything in this film is somewhere on the sexual spectrum. It is either flirty and mischievous or dangerously erotic.

However, anything that the two men do is easily overshadowed by Claudia. A vampire taken as a child. Therefore with the immortal, never changing body of a child but with the mind of an adult killer. It must be tough being Kirsten Dunst, knowing that you played your greatest role aged 11. She is phenomenal in this. I was 9 when this film came out so I don't know of the controversy, or even if there was any, however the idea of a child being so cruel, so sensual, so wicked is a bit uncomfortable.
She isn't a young vampire like Eli, who is much more sage, practical and world-weary. She relishes in the carnage. She makes me think of the few clips I've seen of Chloe Moretz in the upcoming Kick Ass.

Claudia's defining moment is when she realises she will never become a woman. That she is doomed to be a child forever. Here you see the oddest part of the vampire curse. Their bodies will stay the way they are forever. You can't even cut your hair, as it will instantly grow back. Her attempt to rebel against this involves 'killing' Lestat and fleeing - and this is where the film changes completely. It takes a step back from the fripperies and opulence that I so adore and becomes something a bit darker.
I always thought this movie was really long (it isn't, it is under 2 hours) but I think that stems from the fact that is changes, into a second film when they arrive in Paris and meet Antonio Banderas' Armand.
- Before I speak about the next bit, I just want to say that if you take Armand, and trickle in a splash of Zorro you have all the evidence you need to prove that Banderas would make an EXCELLENT Gomez Addams (much fucking better than Tim Curry).

Armand's show - Theatre Des Vampires is fabulous both in its post modernism (vampires pretending to be people pretending to be vampires) but also in how brazen it is as the show's grand finale is the killing of a woman live on stage - which, I assume, everyone thinks is part of the act.
The entire Theatre Des Vampires troupe are just dark. Far more feral and violent (and at times insane) than the refined Lestat, Louis and Claudia. It is here that a lot more dark and savage stuff happens which truly and deeply affects Louis and leaves him hollow and empty for the final parts of the film. Though the montage of cinematic sunrises, and the way the effect Louis as he goes to see them (having not seen a sunrise in decades, if not centuries) is beautiful and brings us up to date.

And then it ends.
This film doesn't really have a conclusion as Louis' story is in no way concluded. It has just reached modern day. He will continue and his story will continue.

We just leave, much like Christian Slater's interviewer, fascinated, transfixed and scared. Lucky to have met such wonderful and dangerous characters. However briefly.

1 comment:

IT-MAN said...

Very well written and thought out review of Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire. I have read the book and seen the movie and they both are very much the same and very beautiful (add and minus some scenes from the book to movie ratio). You made me want to watch the movie again.

I agree, Anne Rice's Vampire lore is my favorite too and if you look at it, besides Bram Stokers' Dracula, which gave the vampire a face, she started the whole 'sexy' vampire trend. When reading the book, you get a more in depth look at the sexuality of the kill. It's so taboo and wicked that is dangerously erotic (as you put it). You can't help but get sucked into it. It's almost like reading about two people making love, it's that powerful.

Yes, by far the most interesting character is Claudia. The book, like always, flushes out her character more, especially when Lestat is momentarily out of the picture. She still remains my favorite vampire to this day. Her short life is so tragic. Plus, you can't help but feel for her and her struggle with her hatred for Lestat (and eventually Louis) and the fact that she will never become a woman. So tragic.

Interview with the Vampire remains my go to for the vampire lore. I have been watching and reading about vampires since I was a teen and no other lore of the vampire has capitvated me more than Anne Rice's. If Bram Stokers' Dracula was the originator for the modern day vampire, then she perfected his design and everyone else is just an imitation of her perfection.

Great review!