Monday, June 11, 2007

A Kitschy but Visually Stylish Take on Vampires

A Kitschy but Visually Stylish Take on Vampires(Please bear with me as I take a very short break from translation and mull other interesting thoughts about vampires. :-) )

Here's another cult Vampire movie I've been wanting to see, which would be quite different from Moto Hagio's interpretation of vampires, but interesting in its own way. It is The Hunger, a 1983 movie starring the glam David Bowie, Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon. Just imagining the production values, the classical/ gloomy, gothic Bauhaus/Iggy Pop soundtrack and the eye candy factor makes it sound watchable, though I suspect the vampire theme is handled in a rather campy and over-the-top way. But that would precisely make it fun, wouldn't it?

Anyhow, here is a partial plot summary from Wikipedia:

Catherine Deneuve's character, Miriam Blaylock, is a beautiful and modern vampire who chooses human lovers and promises them eternal life. As the film begins, her current companion is John (Bowie), a man she married in 18th century France. They live together in an elegant New York townhouse.

Yet as John learns, humans can never become true vampires. Miriam herself is truly ageless, with flashbacks indicating that she has been alive since at least the time of Ancient Egypt. Her human lovers, however, only experienced prolonged youth for a century or two. Then they begin to age rapidly, eventually deteriorating into withered, corpse-like figures. The true horror of this situation is that these vampire/human hybrids age but cannot die. Miriam and John both hope that Dr. Sarah Richards (Sarandon) will be able to help restore his health.

When John visits Sarah's clinic, she dismisses his claims of rapid aging as delusional. She leaves him to sit in the waiting room, where he ages decades in just a few hours. Sarah is appalled when she sees what has happened to John, but it is too late to help him. The now-ancient man returns home and begs Miriam to kill him. She tells him that she cannot, and tenderly places him in a coffin in the attic alongside her other former lovers.

Sarah, guilty over her failure to treat John, comes looking for him at home. Miriam decides to take Sarah as her new companion. She seduces the doctor and, while they are having sex, cuts herself and has Sarah drink her blood.

Sarah returns home to her boyfriend Tom (Cliff DeYoung), not realizing what Miriam has done to her. She begins to feel increasingly distracted, and experiences a hunger that cannot be sated even with raw steak. Sarah returns to Miriam's house and demands an explanation.

Miriam attempts to initiate Sarah in the necessities of life as a vampire, but Sarah is repulsed by the thought of subsisting on human blood. Still reeling from the effects of her vampiric transformation, Sarah allows Miriam to put her to bed in a guestroom. When Tom comes looking for Sarah, Miriam sends him up to find her. Sarah, crazed with hunger, attacks Tom and drinks his blood.

Once she has finished feeding, Sarah goes downstairs to find Miriam. Miriam is pleased that Sarah seems to have finally come around. Yet Sarah, overcome with grief at murdering Tom, has decided that she will not continue on be a vampire. She cuts her own throat. She cannot die, but the loss of blood apparently renders her comatose.

(I won't give away the ending. :-) ) And though I would get to enjoy seeing a very gorgeous David Bowie for at least part of the movie, I suppose at a certain point he would start looking gruesome, though Sarandon and Deneuve, at least, would stay hot and stunning till the end.

It sounds kind of silly, but again, there are some basic commonalities with other vampire stories: the time-traveling, the immortality and (nearly) eternal youth, the need for blood, the self-disgust in becoming a vampire and losing one's humanity.

Maybe sometime soon I will rent out some DVDs and have a vampire film festival to see how differently the vampire mythos is played out at different times in the recent modern culture.

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