Horrorfest 2014 Presents: The Ninth Gate (1999, Roman Polanski)

Although more of a thriller than a horror movie, The Ninth Gate is rooted in both the supernatural and reality, something that Polanski did with Rosemary’s Baby, The Tenant and Repulsion. Johnny Depp portrayals a book dealer and collector who is hired by a rich collector named Boris, played by Frank Langella to prove his copy of a book written by the Devil is not a fake. Even though the reasons are never revealed, Depp’s Corso presses on with the search, brushing past increasing dangers and witnessing horrible things in the process.

This, like all of Polanski’s films is rather well made and is engaging throughout. However it almost falls apart in the second act and the ending is a tad unsatisfying, and the film could have been shortened by at least 20 minutes. The mystery woman (the rather gorgeous Emmanuelle Seigner)  that aids Corso is a little too convenient and the film itself dives into silliness in certain parts. Yet I was still mostly entertained and the film has the hallmarks of many of Polanski’s best works. A much better modern Polanski thriller is The Ghost Writer, a film that has a better cast and is more tightly paced.


Best of the West: Day VIII

Warning: Review Contains Spoilers

13. Dead Man (Jarmusch, 1995)

Curiously enough this is the first movie I ever saw from Jim Jarmusch, who struck me as a rather interesting filmmaker. This is defiantly not your typical western, especially since Jarmusch in clever fashion has Johnny Depp playing a man who goes from an accountant to a gunslinger and killer. That was something I did not expect to happen eventually in the film, particularly since this is a rather stark, lyrical, and almost poetic film. By the 1990s the genre was on its last limbs, so Jarmusch along with Clint Eastwood gave us two amazing films that at least breathed some fresh life into the western, even though nowadays we are lucky to get one a year.

Also I would like to thank Roger Ebert for bashing this movie, since his review was why I watched it in the first place. Either he did not get the film and thus was negative as a result, or he found the movie’s mystical implications wanting. Regardless, that doesn’t matter because I honestly have no idea what really the movie is supposed to be saying, and perhaps that is the point. Such puzzling attributes do not matter honestly when you are watching a film as captivating as this one, and I loved Neil Young’s simplistic and rough guitar infused score, which only highlights the oddity of this entire movie.

Extra points go to this film for featuring a Native American in its main cast, as Nobody acts as a taunter of Blake (“Stupid fucking white man,”) a quoter of the actual William Blake’s poetry, and the accountant Blake’s guide into another realm. This brings me to another point, which is that [SPOILER]I am willing to consider that when he gets shot the first time Blake actually dies, and therefore the rest of the movie is his last thoughts before he finally goes to the afterlife.[/SPOILER] Yet I wish to reject that theory because in a way it cheapens what occurs, plus I prefer to speculate that Blake is seeking enlightenment without even realizing that he is doing so.

Oh and this movie is one of the few westerns, if maybe the only western, on this list that has any kind of bleak/dark humor. The fact that Blake ends up forsaking his past life and embracing his mission as a bringer of death actually warrants an essay, and maybe I will finally view this film again on Instant Viewing. Jarmusch’s sharp ability to blind western standard cliches with his own mythical view of the west is remarkable, and I really wish he would have made one more western, although considering how he works that is probably unlikely.

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