Friday, July 9, 2010

Joie' De Vivre On Celluloid: Hannibal

He is dressed in a tuxedo, after an eloquent performance of Italian opera. The sky is black, the lights are like fireflies, the air is crisp and the atmosphere is beautiful. Or maybe that's because he elevates anything to a higher level of class instantly just by simply being around. Or at least he certainly seems to.

This is Dr. Hannibal Lectar. He watches as a couple passes by. The young woman says to her beau, "Let's get something to eat."

Hannibal replies, "Why not?"

This is my most satisfied review of Ridley Scott's Hannibal.

In a way, this film, isn't a real Hannibal film. It's cliff notes. A dedication. An invigorating jolt of classical energy and demonic fear. A fly by with sharp, beautiful images, and Grade A performances all around. We got the whole kitten-caboodle in '91's SOTL. Here, we are short some of the litter. Even with two characters like this--some of the humanly richest of people of not only the 90's but the birth of new film starting in the late 60's--we still miss some of those baby cats. But I'll say this, the film has a secret theme coursing through it's veins: evolution. And I'll bring that up when it's time.

This film took another decade to get onto the screen, and lost it's director Jonathan Demme once he read the novel and lead actress in Jodie Foster in the process. Demme didn't find the follow up novel's material relatable to himself. Foster had (allegedly) opted out to make film of her own, Flora Plum. That film is currently listed on IMDB with a release date of 2013 with Evan Rachel Wood taking on Claire Danes role. Some say she had sequel-itis, I don't blame her, why do it for the money and just because. But some also say, it (allegedly) was because of the money too. I'm not here to comment, because frankly, she said Clarice was a very important person to both her and Demme, and I think she passed because this isn't the same woman anymore.

With Julianna Moore's casting, reportedly beating out six other A-listers for the part and Hopkins himself voting for her, we see something evolved though not necessarily new, in Ms. Clarice Starling. First off, yes, she is still just "Miss". Would there be any other way? No. After a decade of crime fighting through the FBI and it's classy criminals, she has become bitter, harsh and hardened by the "cold weather." She is now a Special Agent, a nice feat to have to oneself if I understand it correctly. She drives, a 5.0 Mustang, coal black, with five point rims and the snarling engine you'd expect. She is professional at all times. Smiles very rarely and only because she uses it as a tactic. She doesn't have time for chit-chat, she doesn't exactly dodge your fruitless questions either, she simply barrels right through them and get's to the bottom of things herself. That's pretty much a standard issue approach to her style of life. When she's angry and needs to stay focused, she straps on the yellow gloves and cleans her kitchen. Of course while listening to the old tapes of her and Lectar. She is the woman in the Guinness Book of World Records with the single most kills to a female FBI agent. Moore even went so far in her dedication that she attended training at the FBI's academy, using their knowledge rihgt down to the clothes they wear on their backs day in and out. 

I loved this incarnation of Starling, though I can see why Foster did not. There's no more--not magic--but... fascination inside of her, and that fear coated courage that we saw in SOTL. She is not rich for character development, she is solid in her way of day-to-day life now. Although, there is the arguable continued romance between her and Lectar. I wasn't even sure I had a firm enough grasp until a single tear came down her cheek for reasons I won't explain. It means a few things, and not just disgust. Trust. When asked if she ever thinks of him, she looks down and replies with a small chuckle, "At least thirty seconds of every day."
"Hopkins carries off the justifiable pomposity of Lecter with a knowing smile."
                                                                               --Chris Laverty, Clothes On
That man, just some dude who writes about costume design online, just nailed the new Hannibal, the aged, decade older Dr. Hannibal Lectar. He is not inside a glass room without windows anymore. Inside that room, he was anxious, wide-eyed (a line from Hopkins underrated Meet Joe Black), pent-up. In his own Dr. Lectar sort of way of course. Now he's in Florence, Italy, free to roam in a place of true history, culture, grandiose artistic qualities, great food, wine, and women of course. What I'm saying is, that he's at home now. Posing as Dr. Fell, who has recently taken out the library curator, in an attempt to gain the position himself. A library curator. Of course. It's all over his face, even when he has to return to the states, the freedom he talked of in SOTL is now at his grasp every moment of the day--and he relishes every solitary second of it. So do we, so do we... Gary Oldman said, "He's cultured, he's well read, he speaks, speaking languages, he's a surgeon, he's a psychiatrist... (As an after thought) And he eats people." That's always been my vision of him too. 

Anthony Hopkins was every bit Hannibal as you'd want. And yet, he has evolved in his ten years of freedom. Freed-om. Released from his prision literally, he now has a chance to really do things, among eating what Barney the orderly quoted him saying, "The Rude. The free-range rude." Hopkins himself is quoted saying, "He's still the sort of Robin Hood of killers. He kills the—what do they call them? The terminally rude."

I pitied Mason Verger the entire time. Because Hannibal could care less about him, short of getting caught I'm sure. And Mason is going to (understandably) extreme lengths to care about his vendetta and extract his revenge on a man he will never truly understand. Will anyone short of Starling? Does even Starling understand? Hannibal eventually finds himself in front of Verger, and uses a soft voice to say, "No Mason... I much prefer you the way you are..." That voice was many things all at once. It was thoughtful, it was somber, it was quiet pleasure, and it was pity. Mason Verger, is played by one of maybe six true acting chameleons in film today, Gary "The Great" Oldman. Verger is (truly super-rich) and a former child molester who used his family's Christian summer camp as a way to continue to prey on little kiddies. Sick bro... Verger is, well, not entirely a true victim of Lectar. The great Doctor simply got him high as fuck, and requested he peel his face off and feed it to his dogs, then manipulated the noose around his neck (Veger uses as for auto-erotic-asphyxiation) to snap his neck. Lucky for Verger (not really) he survived.

The novel explains a few things that the film doesn't for his final condition. Right quick, let me just say that this dude has a house... Or, uh, it's not even a mansion, it's a fucking castle sucka. Scott and his team used the grand Biltmore Estate to show the immense wealth of Mason Verger. It is the largest privately-owned home in the US coming in at 175,000 square feet with 250 rooms to spare. Oldman stated in an interview on Charlie Rose, who's awesome, that it took a ten minute phone call with Ridley himself to get the offer, done deal.  Since he would be completely unrecognizable, he found it a challenge to totally disappear into his role. Maybe more than any other actor alive every has. Seriously. I went years, seeing this on re-runs on TV, before I found out (once my film appreciation kicked in high gear) it was Oldman, and didn't believe it at first. But then... it totally made sense. He really looks absolutely dis-gust-ing.

Some people were down right offended by this film, and they have every right to be. It took out a lot or changed some of the great elements in the novel on which is was based and completely changed the ending which I wont spoil. Go read it, and in a way, it is sort of predictable. Like I said, I felt this film was... hollow. A shell, with only two lonely peanuts inside. But once cracked open, those nuts are all we need to survive. This film isn't a showcase of true mastery as a whole in story telling. For film lovers, this an actor's dream and they obviously had quiet some fun making this. Hopkins said himself, "Ya know that 's what we did we set out to have some fun. Some people take offensive to it, but... ya know?" So did I in watching them. We all know that the original film would be impossible to top, so why not cop-out for a tribute with one of the finest directors around? I'm game son. That's where I see this film having much merit. I really do, look at it next time and try to sit back and enjoy yourself as Oldman, Hopkins and Moore give us an true operatic experience under the watchful direction of Scott, with David Mamet, Steve Zillian and Hans Zimmer guiding us through it. 

That's what this film is, an Operatic adulation and salutation to a wonderful 1st film/2nd book (Hannibal being the third). As I often use to express my praise of film, Bravo.

Munki out.

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