Sunday, August 10, 2014

Interview with a Vampire (film) review

    I'm feeling in a somewhat undead mood this week, so I'm going to be doing a week of reviewing my favorite vampire movies. There will be good, bad, and indifferent but all of them left an undeniable impression on my poor little psyche. We'll be starting off with my favorite vampire film of all time: the Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise classic Interview with a Vampire. I love this movie and could gush about what it's awesome forever. However, that's not going to benefit people who haven't seen it and those who have seen it already know. 

    So, instead, I'm going to talk about what works in this film.

    In a very real way, Interview with a Vampire is a vanishingly rare film which treats the concept of vampirism seriously. There's countless films where there's undead monsters threatening you and just as many where the vampire is the hero. Hell, television has made a cottage industry out of copying Hannibal King and his 'vampire private eye' thing.

You have to be as self-aware of your prettiness as these two men to pull off these outfits. Or actually French. Either way.
    What this film, and the Anne Rice novel before it, captured was the perspective of being a vampire. Much is made of Louis and his many imitators (as well as predecessors) being reluctant vampires who don't hurt people in the course of their duties. The thing is, what makes Louis so unique and arguably more interesting is he gets over it. His inability to hurt regular humans fades with time as they cease to be a relevant part of his life while his "vampire" family becomes what he cherishes.

    That's almost unique, the failure of the redemption or "Good" vampire arc.

    Now, this doesn't hold in The Vampire Chronicles. Vampires prey upon the evil-doer there and become rockstars or immortal gods who hang out with the Devil. However, we're talking about the movie which has an entirely different ambiance than the later volumes of Anne Rice's work. No, here, vampirism is a dread curse which the attempts to fight against are ultimately futile. Louis is a monster at the end and he's accepted that but he'll never be happy about it and that's the truly staggering nature of his curse. Brad Pitt's performance is masterful as he conveys what it's like to be caught in vampiric purgatory.

Adorable and deadly!
    While Louis is the titular interviewee, this movie would have gotten nowhere without Tom Cruise's Lestat. There's a joke to be made about Tom Cruise playing a charismatic ego-maniacal blooducker but I'm sure plenty of people have already done it. Just like Louis, Lestat is trapped in vampirism but attempts to convince himself that he's happy by doing whatever amuses him at that moment. To be Lestat is to be just as lonely as Louis and yet his attempts to make companions make things worse. There's some silliness with Tom Cruise's wire work but, overall, I really liked his overacting.

    Perfect for Lestat.

    Much has been stated about Kirsten Dunst's Claudia and there's a reason for that. In a film which a good half is about the slow degeneration of a child vampire to insanity, you need someone who can pull off a lot of conflicting emotions. Kirsten Dunst manages to capture the hopelessness of being trapped forever in a shell which is cute rather than beautiful well. To never be a liberated woman and always look like a little China doll is something Anne Rice says females of our species have struggled with for millennium (see here).

    I can't speak to that but the primal desire of not being able to be who you want (and can never be) is conveyed well. We can all relate to frustrated dreams and Claudia's dream to grow up is one we can all relate to at one point in our lives. Distaste for our own body is a, sadly, universal theme with even the beautiful suffering from it.

    While playing a fairly minor role in the grand scheme of things, I always remember Antonio Bandera's performance as Armand performance when thinking of older vampires. Armand is kind of a false shephard in this movie. Louis is in search of something to separate him from the belief he's a monster but all Armand can offer is shenanigans and justifications. He's very good at selling them, though, which is more than anyone else has tried.

I will say, there is a LOT of staring in this movies. Intense gazes. Glares. Looks. The whole shebang.
    All of the vampires in this movie are one shade of miserable after another. The only ones who aren't are the Theater Vampires and those are literally too stupid to realize how horrible their lives are. Immortality isn't a blessing when you only have an eternity of misery to contemplate.

    Ignorance is a blessing for the Theater Vampires because they can't contemplate the enormous weight of eternity banging down on their shoulders--ironically, while they sit in judgement of mortals for not doing the same. It's a delicious bit of irony that Santiago and other evil vampires talk of how death comes for everyone while not thinking the same will befall them. They have a hateful role and it's well-acted.

    The movie wouldn't be half as good as it is if not for the soundtrack by Elliot Goldenthal. I still have the soundtrack twenty-years-later and listen to its regularly. Its haunting, beautiful, and exotic. Neil Jordan made a bunch of wonderful casting, music, and direction choices for this movie.

    That's why it's a must-see for vampire fans.

    Or hell, movie fans in general.


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