Ninth Gate, The(SE)/C+,A-
Artisan/2000/133/ANA 2.35

     Maybe because I expect more from a Roman Polanski film, The Ninth Gate disappointed me . It's well crafted film. It looks great, all the parts are professionally put together, and there are even some interesting story elements. But, the story is what let's this Polanski project down. It's potential laid waste. And in the end it comes up hokey to the ninth degree.

Book Detective meets book collector. ©Paramount

     A globetrotting antique book dealer, Frank Corso,  contracts to authenticate a rare book for a billionaire collector Boris Balkan. Corso is a slick operator moving through the dust of old books like a savvy sailor through rocky fogbound shores, but in The Ninth Gate he's traveling uncharted waters. Death plagues Corso's hunt for The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows. From New York to Europe, Corso plots his course with little of the caution associated with antiquarians.    
    As a detective yarn, The Ninth Gate plots a steady but very standard course,  but the cinematic waters get mighty rough with the introduction of supernatural elements. The story ultimately focuses and climaxes on the other worldly. Unfortunately, the script is far less than convincing in matters of the occult. Between a rich cult book worshippers and an angel flirtingly flitting from city to city, the film never sets itself aright. The production fails to bring any excitement to various locales ranging from America to European.
     Johnny Depp, ever the interesting actor, is fine as Corso. Depp infuses his screen energy with some disreputable slime, sliding from one European locale to the next. Frank Langella has the tough task of making Boris Balkan seem like a reasonable sort of guy. Polanski lets him flex his financial muscle rather bombastically. Lena Olin, ever ready to explore the dark side, plays a recently widowed rich gal with a taste for the perverse and Emmanuelle Seigner, is Polanski's angel.
     The Ninth Gate DVD is almost worth buying for the Roman Polanski audio commentary alone. The director is so knowledgeable about his craft and he shares lots of insights with the audience. You do have to sit through the film to appreciate the commentary. 
     Artisan has done an outstanding job with The Ninth Gate in bringing it to DVD. The transfer is very filmlike, preserving grain in tight patterns and reproducing color accurately. Shadow detail is revealed with natural illumination. Images are sharp without excessive edge embellishment. Blacks are lustrous and flesh tone delivered in subtle tones. The Dolby Digital 5:1 fires up with devilish ambiance whenever called for and dialogue and music are delivered with clean precision.





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