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Parent Issue
Month
December
Year
1994
Copyright
Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
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Agenda Publications
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[1 994. Directed by Neil Jordán. Cast Torn Cruise, Brad Pitt, AntonioBanderas, Christian Slater. Geffen Films. 122 mins.] W Ü rÜ There ought to be a rule n the movie business that says you can't produce afilm you don't believe in. For if such a rule was adopted, stories like Interview With the Vampire would eventually find their legitímate métier. The fact that Neil Jordán has seemingly betrayed his better instincts only makes this issue that much more significant Jordán has directed two of the most interesting films in this halfdecade - Mona Lisa and The Crying Game - that have grappled with the trials of same-sex relationships. Both of these films have a naturalgrittiness that makes their protagonists' stark tangle of nerves seem revelatory. Unfortunately, this sharp-edge is lost in Interview With the Vampire. The film begins with the interviewer, Malloy (Christian Slater), being led to an abandoned San Franc isco Market Street room by the abnormally pale Louis (Brad Pitt). After settling down with a tape recorder, Louis proceeds to teil Malloy his centuries-old tale of woe. He was seduced in 1 791 by an aristocrat, Lestat (Torn Cruise), who was cruising New Orleans' wharves fora late-nkjht snack. Afterbleeding his quarry, Lestat gives Louis a choice: Ether drink the blood of the vampire, and thereby li ve an immortal life preying upon others, or die an extremely painful death. Whether through cowardice or better judgment, Louis takes up Lestat's offer and the two proceed to live a satyriasis delight until they turn an orphan (Kirsten Dunst) into the third member of their night life. The result is a trail of vampyric gore leading up to the apartment where Louis unburdens himself on his interlocutor. Perhaps this story made atmospheric sense in Ann Rice's best-selling novel, but on screen Interview With the Vampire becomes a soapy confection of foggy corners, dank cellars, and grisly blood-riddenincisors. It'salittle gross, but certainly not very scary. But even this compromised slushiness would be . able f the fílm had a core of ntegrity. Instead, rts high priced talent goesto waste in recurren tJy bumt set pieces that are sharply off-set against the screenplay's falsely rung dialogue. The argument might be made that filming what is essential ly a gay subtext - boy bites boy - would not have garnered the participation of Cruise, Pitt, Slater, or Banderas. But so what? Cathy Tyson in Mona Usa and Jaye Davidson in 777e Crying Game weren't exactiy household names when those eartier films were released. Much betterto aim fora script and cast that would roll with the story's punches and not worry so much about collective images and incomes. Instead, Jordán 's heart is clearty not n his film. He 's a directoral gun for hire on what is supposed to be a cash cow and he substïtutes cinematic flash (and not nearty enough cinematic flesh) for substance. We're reduced to watching a cast of handsome actors playing at what Ann Ree thinks vampires should be. But when the entire logic of the film impels good-guy Louis to lovingly embrace the handsomely satanic Armand (Antonio Banderas) - and they both back off nervously atwitter - somebody's not dealing in good faith. IT'S ALL TRUE [1993. Directed by Richard Wilson, Myron Meisel, Bill Krohn. Cast: Orson Welles and his ego. ParamountParamount Home Video. 83 mins.] Essentially a morality tale draped in the guise of a murder mystery, the lesson behind tt 's All True senoughtochill the heart of all independent filmmakers. For rt is, indeed, all ttue: Doni take a million of your bosses' dollars and run off to Rio while you're supposed to be editing your masterpiece. It'sAII True tries mightily to cast Orson Welles in the role of a victim, but this is easy to do when most of the principies are deceased. Besides, RKO was the studio being dunned in the '40s and Paramount (in conjunction with the American Film Institute) can take the high road releasing the re mainsof his South American pet project a half-century later. Here are the f acts: In 1 941 Welles was asked by Nelson Rockefeller on behalf of the U.S. State Department to be a cinematic "goodwill ambassador"to Latín Americaduring World War II. And once he was convinced that only he could save western civüization, hetookthe loot offered by RKOtoshoot Brazil'scamival as part of aprojected documentary he was supervising called tt's Ai True. What he was supposed to be doing was edit 77 MagnrficentAmbersons with Robert Wise in Hollywood. Instead, Welles triedtorigupasystemwhere he could edit by long-distance cable and telephone; but needless to say, the gambit didn't work...especially when RKO got swallowed in a merger and the studio's new owners were looking for ways to save money. The first thing they noticed was one of their "star" directors being a couple of continents out of pocket spending their money on a samba documentary that did n t have a screenplay or any of the other niggling details one typically thinks in terms of when pitching film projects. Even by Hollywood standards, this is extraordinarily "high concept" Meanwhile, back at the Rio, Welles heard about the story of four fishermen who had captured the heart of South America through a remarkably heroic Atlantic sea-hopping odyssey. These fishermen had endured potential death daily to bring their fellow jangacferos' plight to the attention of the Brazilian govemment. In a moment of cinematic inspiration, Welles prevailed upon them to reenact their triumphant entry into Rio's harbor upon which their leader drowned in a freak accident. This sad turn of events led achastened Welles to turn his attention towards filming their adventure for posterity in his documentary. But RKO tightened the screws and left him with just enough funds to hire a cameraman and stripped-down crew to film his quixotic joumey. It's this footage that creates the drama in It's Ai True. In 1985, Paramount executive, Fred Chandler, stumbted across 90,000 feet of black-and-white film in their archives that tumed out to be the raw stock of Welles' lost feature entitled "Fbur Men on a Raft." Using modem technology, the assistant director on that trip, Richard Wilson, restored the sense of what Welles improvised on a day-by-day basis. The footage is simply stunning. Welles has so thoroughly stamped his imprint on this project- no matter howmeager his resources - bysheerforceof personality, "Fbur Men on a Raft" becomes an exciting tale of love, death, and adventure. Every image in this short film has been pulled from his magnificently fertile imagination. Ultimately, however, one has to be stunned by the proflígate - as well as protean- talent revealed in It's All True. Working with only one camera, and inspiring his amateur South American cast well beyond their comprehension, Welles demónstrales how much beauty and tensión a talented filmmaker can créate even with his back against the wall. TheMagnificentAmbersons got mangled and it failed at the box office. The original It's At True got shelved, and Welles bought all the footage shot inthe 40s, but K was never completed. Even "Four Men on a Raft" was abandoned and it languished in studio cans until being miraculously resurrected by the ever-faithful Wilson. But Welles was not the one who got cheated.We were all cheated. One of cinema's greatest talents wou ld never discipline himself and as aresult Welles wandered the rest of his life grasping for the elusive funds to complete his visions. It's all-too-true: Despite intennittent success, he never fully regained his balance. RATING KEY ik Acting H Cinematography Direction LE Editing ë Narrative 9 Sound Special Effects When a symbol appears following a We, h mplies that the corresponding category is a strength of the movie.

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