Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Film Review: THE NAME OF THE ROSE (1986, Jean-Jacques Annaud)

Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 130 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Sean Connery, Christian Slater, F. Murray Abraham, Ron Perlman (HELLBOY), Feodor Chaliapin, Jr. (INFERO), William Hickey (WISE BLOOD, PINK CADILLAC, REMO WILLIAMS), Vernon Dobtcheff (the Nazi butler in INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE), Elya Baskin (AIR FORCE ONE, SPIDERMAN 2), Michael Lonsdale (THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY, THE LAST MISTRESS), Urs Althaus (NEW YORK RIPPER, WARBUS).
Tag-lines: "Who, in the name of God, is getting away with murder?"
Best one-liner(s): "My dear Adso, we must not allow ourselves to be influenced by irrational rumors of the Antichrist, hmm? Let us instead exercise our brains and try to solve this tantalizing conundrum."

A brilliant, poignant tale of the import of knowledge and the power of repression. Sean Connery as the learned monk William of Baskerville is absolute perfection, beginning a string of fantastic late 80's performances culminating in THE UNTOUCHABLES, THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, and INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE. The only times I've seen him better are possibly THE HILL or THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING. Christian Slater plays his young apprentice in one of his earliest roles. The Slater factor is surprisingly low here, despite a rather graphic sex scene, mainly because of his uncharacteristically low-key performance and the fact that it's really the Sean Connery show.

Slater factor mostly neutralized by restrained use of eyebrows and presence of Sean Connery.

Somehow this international production recalls not only the wonder of vintage (violent) German fairy tales, the exquisitely spun mysteries of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the operatic visuals of Sergio Leone (thanks to phenomenal cinematography by Tonino Delli Colli), but also the muted poeticism of classic French cinema. Supposedly Robert De Niro was supposed to play William, but was dismissed by director Jean-Jacques Annaud when he insisted on a gratuitous sword-fight sequence. This movie is not a swashbuckler, a 'Gotcha!' mystery, nor a witchcraft exploitation film. It is a languid, thoughtful, and humble work. Annaud even begins the film by respectfully crediting Umberto Eco's work, not even claiming to have made an adaptation, but rather a 'palimpsest.' This film derives power and poignance from a work where it could have all too easily devolved into groan-mustering mawkishness, and that is a difficult feat, indeed.

-Sean Gill

1 comment:

Tempest said...

I have yet to see this film. Slater has said more than once that they would not be able to pull off such an explicit sex scene with a minor today. Poor Christian got his heart broken as he really fell for Valentina Vargas.