Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Ninth Gate

The Ninth Gate screens on Wednesday, October 27th at 9:00pm at the Toronto Underground Cinema.

Roman Polanski, other than being a controversial figure, largely made a name for himself with a movie about someone being tortured by the Devil. Rosemary's Baby was a landmark horror film dealing with one woman's struggle between the ethereal and the real. Polanski, much like Martin Scorcese, can be a great genre filmmaker and sometimes doesn't get as much credit in this regard. The Ninth Gate, starring Johnny Depp, is one of those films that tends to get overlooked when people talk about Polanski films. This does not make it any less of a film. In fact, it is a film that predates such "treasure hunting spiritual based films" as National Treasure or The DaVinci Code that actually bothers to take itself seriously and treats the audience like it actually has a brain. Needless to say, it is probably also a bit heady for some viewers going in expecting to see a hellish nightmare.

Very loosely based on the novel The Dumas Club by Arturo Perez-Reverte, The Ninth Gate focuses on the quest embarked upon by the somewhat lecherous and underhanded rare book dealer Dean Corso (Depp) as he tries to determine the authenticity of a rare book for his client (played by Frank Langella). The book in question is The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows, which, if placed in proximity to the only other copies in existence, can be used to open the gates of hell. Aided by a mysterious woman (with green eyes akin to those of Rosemary's baby), Corso embarks on a series of trips to Paris and Spain in order to find the remaining copies that may or may not be fakes. It would appear that opening the gates of hell will be the best way to test the authenticity.

While The Ninth Gate is essentially a treasure hunter film, it also occupies the space in Polanski's filmography where Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby meet. Much like those films, Ninth Gate is very lovingly shot and intensely atmospheric. Despite that, this is not a film for everyone. It is fairly dry and maybe a touch overlong at two hours and thirteen minutes. There also isn't a single likable character in the whole film, but it is still awesome to be reminded that Depp cleans up well and can play just as great of a scoundrel without resulting to theatrical tricks and make up. The ending is also a great conversation starter and has the potential to be a love it or hate it proposition for most viewers. Either way, it is an ending you will probably be talking about long after the final reel has unspooled.

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