'Interview' warrants controversy, praise

By Doug Cummings

Arizona Daily Wildcat

After a year of tumultuous attention, "Interview With a Vampire," based on Anne Rice's best-selling novel, has finally opened. The movie is atmospherically intense, but curiously, it resembles a neo-gothic painting that is beautiful but distant, stylized but emotionally unaffecting.

The movie begins with Malloy (Christian Slater), a sardonic reporter who interviews Louis (Brad Pitt), a cordial vampire. With Louis' narration, the movie jumps back 200 years to New Orleans, when Louis first meets an aristocratic vampire named Lestat (Tom Cruise) who gives him vampiric immortality.

However, Louis soon finds that becoming a creature of the night isn't as fun as he thought, and he grows disenchanted with his violent lifestyle.

Fearing Louis will leave, Lestat converts a young orphan, Claudia (Kirsten Dunst), into a vampire, causing Louis to stay with him in order to protect her.

The rest of the movie deals with Louis' and Claudia's efforts to escape Lestat's control and find vampiric fellowship in the world.

The movie is swathed in deep shadows and flickering candlelight. Director Neil Jordan ("The Crying Game") returns to the gothic-inspired visuals of his earlier "The Company of Wolves," and utilizes Victorian mansions and plague-ridden streets to create a horrific atmosphere. Visually, the movie is quite eerie.

But Jordan seems so intent upon developing the movie's look that he skimps on the dramatic side. Rice has concocted a good story, but the movie misses its chances for drama. For instance, Louis' feelings of parental responsibility are probably strengthened because his real daughter had apparently died, but this is never emphasized. And the character of Lestat never seems more than a wisecracking socialite.

The outcry surrounding Cruise's casting is appropriate. It's unfortunate that he resorts to his stock gazes and toothy smiles. His attempts at black humor, offered so daintily, only seem silly and they undercut the film's atmosphere.

However, there are commendable elements. Brad Pitt and especially Kirsten Dunst give their roles abundant doses of unforced mystery and tragic stature. Dunst especially shines with an intelligence that defies her apparent age.

But in the end, the movie is not very scary, and despite the media focus, not very shocking in its plentiful gore. In fact, very little of the movie is startling on any level, and one wishes Jordan would have concentrated more on creating a film as involving as "The Crying Game." Instead, "Interview With a Vampire" is merely a handsome but shallow retelling of a literary favorite.

"Interview With a Vampire" is showing at Century Park 16, 620-0750.

loss to Minnesota. With its 24-point victory over formerly top-ranked Arkansas, Massachusetts garnered 58 of 65 first-place votes and the new No. 1 ranking. Rounding out the top five are North Carolina, Kentucky, Arkansas, and UCLA.

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