Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday Movie Review: The Hunger

The Hunger (1983) 7/10
Miriam (Catherine Deneuve) and John (David Bowie) are ancient vampires living in modern (1983) Manhattan. Although Miriam is immortal, John begins to age after hundreds of years of youth. Then they discover Sarah (Susan Sarandon), a doctor researching the cause of aging. Directed by Tony Scott.

I know I saw this movie in the theater. I remember being in a theater in 1983 or 1984 (might have been second run) and seeing this, and yet I remembered nothing about it except finding it confusing.

It is confusing, no doubt about that. The stylized use of inter-cutting is dizzying, and the mechanics of the plot are left largely to the imagination. And yet, and yet, and yet...The Hunger is something like an encapsulation of everything that fascinates about vampirism. It is sexy, artsy, and dark. It lavishly favors style over substance, and makes that a virtue. In fact, where The Hunger is weakest is in trying so hard to have a plot at all. It works best as a visual and sensory trip outside the confines of what-the-hell-is-this-anyway.

It's kind of ahead of its time, really. It was before Michelle Belanger. It was not before Anne Rice (Interview with the Vampire was published in 1976), but certainly before she was her own cottage industry. Yet here is The Hunger, showing a connection between vampires and a dark nightclub scene that would later morph into Goth. Miriam and John go out, listen to Bauhaus, dance with New Wavers dressed all in black, go home with two of them, have sex with them, and eat them. That there is nudity is absolutely right; this is absorption is the sensual experience.

...and depending on your tastes, you may hate this movie. Because there is all this artsy inter-cutting, and there is this stupidly obtuse plot, and a lot of veils, a lot of gauze, and crumbly corpses. This is definitely a matter of taste.

The movie mostly stumbles in showing Sarah's side of things; her age laboratory is thinly drawn—a bunch of white coats and monkeys—and I could have done with less lab and more Miriam and John. But one scene, in which John visits Sarah's facility, is perhaps the best and most haunting the film has to offer.

Plus there's the sex. Because it's definitely true that any movie in which Catherine Deneuve has naked encounters with both David Bowie and Susan Sarandon is worth seeing.

(Would you offer your cross-post to the wolf with the red roses?)