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The Ninth Gate

Movie Information

In Brief: Roman Polanski's 1999 supernatural thriller The Ninth Gate is perhaps the closest the filmmaker has ever come to making a straightforward horror movie — even if it takes a good deal of the film's running time to get to the straightforward horror content. (Well, it's Polanski, after all, and he's not known as a traditionalist.) Though sadly underappreciated at the time, the film — about an unscrupulous book dealer (Johnny Depp) trying to verify which of three copies of a rare volume on the occult is genuine — has come to be more favorably assessed over the years. And it should be because it's first-rate on every level.
Score:

Genre: Horror
Director: Roman Polanski
Starring: Johnny Depp, Frank Langella, Lena Olin, Emmanuelle Seigner, Barbara Jefford
Rated: R

When filmmakers reach a certain level of popularity and critical esteem, it becomes distressingly commonplace that their newer works will be found to be not as good as their earlier ones. How much this has to do with critics wanting to put these boys in their places is open to question, though I think it mostly has to do with a shortsightedness that demands the filmmaker should just stop growing. It is, after all, easier to condemn the artist (in any art) for not providing what you expect than it is to come to terms with a departure. Such was the fate of Roman Polanski’s The Ninth Gate when it appeared in 1999. And yet the truth is that the film really wasn’t out of keeping with the director’s body of work if you bothered to really look. The last time the film played locally, I wrote: “High on the list of underrated — perhaps even misunderstood — Roman Polanski films is his 1999 diabolical thriller, The Ninth Gate. Ten years ago, most critics seemed to want to dismiss the film out of hand with the typical (and wrongheaded) outcry of it being inferior to his Rosemary’s Baby (1968). In other cases, it was decried as being less successful than its source novel. Note, if you will, that neither assessment actually addresses the film on its own merits, which are considerable — even remarkable. The Ninth Gate is the story of a not wholly scrupulous dealer in rare books, Dean Corso (Johnny Depp), who is hired by the enigmatic, sinister and filthy rich Boris Balkan (Frank Langella) to discover which of three copies of a book from 1666 (of course) is real. The book was supposedly virtually co-authored by Satan himself — and, it’s said, can be used to summon the old boy. Balkan has just acquired one of the copies; the other two are in Europe. It is there that he sends Corso, but not before strange things start happening in the States.”

Full review: http://avl.mx/n7

The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen The Ninth Gate Thursday, Nov. 15 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge of The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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