Friday, April 10, 2009

Revisit: The Hunger

An MGM film 1983

Directed by Tony Scott

Written by James Costigan, Ivan Davis & Michael Thomas

Based on the novel by Whitley Strieber

An ancient vampire seduces a famous gerontologist after her similarly ancient husband begins to fade away.

Tony Scott's studio debut has become somewhat of a cult classic since its release in 1983. The Hunger is a vampire flick cut from the Anne Rice tradition -- elegant, ageless, and refined. Much of the film focuses on the seductive powers of the female, played by the always beautiful Catherine Deneuve. Likewise, the main theme is the quest for immortality, and the consequences that come with it.

However, once you strip away the film's glamorous atmosphere, it falls rather flat. Tony Scott's films always seem to be in montage mode; he's a fan of cutting back and forth between planes of action while synchronizing voice-over to wring out double meaning, a trick I always found to be a bit obnoxious. It can be done well but here (and in another one of Scott's films, Spy Game) the cuts move so fast there's barely any time to process the visuals. It's rarely a good sign when a film starts out with a flurry of quick cuts and crazy images, and this one turned me off almost right away.

The performances aren't too great either. Say what you will about Miss Deneuve's looks, but her acting here is stoic, aloof, and disengaging. Likewise for Susan Sarandon, who looks great but is unconvincing as a doctor who specializes in aging research. Casting David Bowie, however, as Deneuve's rapidly aging husband was a very inspired choice. Bowie is by no means an extraordinary actor, but he plays the role straight and does a serviceable job. Marrying the fading vampire character with Bowie's androgynous persona, openly bisexual orientation, and frequently reinvented image adds a lot of intertextual depth that would not have been present otherwise.

If you like gothic vampire lore, you've probably already seen this flick. Otherwise I wouldn't recommend it.

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