Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Ninth Gate (Roman Polanski, 2000) -- B

Roman Polanski's The Ninth Gate is absurd, overlong, yet subtle in its delirium - in other words, almost exactly as it should be, recalling Gialli and Jacques Tourneur's Night of the Demon in its half-serious, half-playful interests. Mikel Koven makes a compelling case in his book La Dolce Morte for the Gialli to be seen through a different critical lens than the European art film, since their aims and goals are far different - the former's to allow audience members something to socialize during, pausing for the killer's pursuits and set-pieces, yet conversing with one another and exiting for smoke, piss, and snack breaks during exposition. The Ninth Gate plays in an identical manner; Dean Corso's (Johnny Depp, commenting that the character's last name is Italian) pursuits of the only two remaining eponymous books carry little weight in terms of socio-religious revelation. Rather, the narrative serves as a thread upon which to hang curious dialogue, moments of evocative, seemingly foreshadowing mysteries, and an ending that's appropriately silly and without pretension. Essentially Polanski's rebuttal to the shifting tide of anti-cinema, The Ninth Gate works nicely as a leisurely bit of business.

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