Friday, September 21, 2007

The Ninth Gate

George Kelley recommended this movie to me. It slipped by me completely on its original release, and I didn't even know that it had to do with rare books and book collectors. So I was glad to catch up with it on DVD.

Johnny Depp, doing his usual excellent job, plays a book dealer with questionable ethics. (I refuse to make any jokes here.) He's hired by Boris Balkan (Frank Langella) to compare his copy of a very rare book to the only two remaining copies. The book has an interesting history, and it begins to seem that the certain illustrations might have been done by Lucifer, whose work appears on different pages in each copy. Put all his engravings together, and what do you get? That's for Langella to know and for Depp to find out.

In some ways this is an effective horror movie, a lot more interesting to me than any number of variations on the old "how many buckets of fake blood can we use" pictures around these days. The book collecting aspects are especially appealing, and Depp's detective work is often engrossing. He's not an appealing character even at the beginning, and he becomes a much worse person as the plot thickens. Along the way he's assisted by a woman who may (or may not) be Lucifer in earthly form. (And not a bad form at all, I must say.)

So what's not to like? Well, the parts that are good in themselves don't add up to an entirely successful whole. The occult sex club wasn't creepy or effective, and the ending didn't satisfy me, though it might have impressed me more if I'd been sure what it meant. Overall, the movie's certainly worth a look, especially if you like books.


Shelly said...

The book was better. Not as occult-ish or whatever, but better. When they made the movie, they took just one aspect of The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Riverte, leaving behind all the really fun stuff. IMO, of course.

Bill Crider said...

I should probably read the book.

Gerard said...

I like that movie. I saw it on DVD and then again when it was broadcast.

Juri said...

Over here in Europe everyone was laughing at the movie, even though the books are highly liked. I liked the film and thought it was highly stylish and crisply moving, but the ending was terrible. Then again, I don't see any point in Perez-Reverte's original ending - it's a huge letdown - and I think Polanski and his scriptwriters thought the same and wanted to alter it, but the result is pretty stupid. However, I liked the film a lot more than some around here.

Bill Crider said...

I feel pretty much the same, Juri. I wish the ending had been better, but what came before was fun.