Sunday, August 23, 2009

Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula

Watched this last night. Have seen it before but not in years. Hollywood at its Hollywoodest.

I have thought of this movie in comparison to Plan 9 from Outer Space. Two wound up auteurs. One has a budget, and one does not. For all its flaws, I think Plan 9 redeems the effort better than does Dracula. I am not claiming that Wood is a better film maker, but his obsession is more interestingly conveyed than Coppola’s. Not that Dracula isn’t an eyeful natheless.

Coppola follows the book pretty well, and well he should because (to my surprise when I read it), Stoker wrote a corker. I assumed it would be like Frankenstein, which is much dryer than the ensuing movies would lead you to believe.

The cast of Dracula is a clutter of familiar faces and varying efforts. Gary Oldham as Dracula overdoes it in a compelling way. His accent is impenetrable, but you cannot help watching him, even with his blood orgasms. Whoever did his makeup went the same route.

Anthony Hopkins hams it up something fierce. I think at times he got swept up into the vortex of Oldham’s version of an Eastern Europe accent. Keanu Reeves is stiff and unreactive. Weird things are going on around you, Keanu, just to 411 you. Reeves was in whatever Shakespeare play that Kenneth Branagh directed and showed a similar disconnection with the material. Not bored or disaffected, just not exactly present.

Like Reeves, Winona Ryder is stuck being British, and that means dull and precise. She is paired with Sadie Frost, who gets to be vibrant and playful and wild, which just makes poor Winona look bad. Cary Elwes, Richard Grant, and Bill Campbell are comic book characters. Coppola did not have time or inclination to develop the minor characters.

The movie, as already intimated, is lavishly laid out. I would have liked to see more of Dracula in his younger days, savagely warring against infidels, but that stuff just sets the scene for London bloodthirst.

Coppola does fun stuff like showing shadows of Dracula doing things other than what Dracula is doing. Reeves hardly notices. When Hopkins is about to kill Frost, who is in Nosferatu mode, she barfs blood in his face, wowzer! I mean it looks so silly, as if it were a low budget teen movie. That’s what the whole movie is about, disparate efforts and disparate approaches jumbled together.

The whole vampire meme is worth consideration. At least some pondering of the appeal of vampires is worthwhile. The idea that there is a crew of cannabalistic beasties that live forever either killing their prey or turning them into colleagues kinda evades logic. And thinking such creatures are cool is a stretch, if you think about it.

Well anyway, Hollywood supplies us with hokum to stare into and Coppola has given us a prime example of this work.

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