Monday, February 1, 2016

Now That You’ve Seen Lady Gaga in American Horror Story, Go Watch The Hunger

 Like sexy New Wave proto-Goth vampires and Bauhaus?  And really, who doesn’t?  If you watch the opening scene from The Hunger (1983) you will immediately discover where American Horror Story drew its inspiration for the bloody Countess of the Hotel Cortez.  The movie opens with Peter Murphy lit perfectly from two symmetrical spotlights, behind an iconic 80’s grid singing “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”.  The first reveal of Catherine Denueve, coldly elegant in cat-eye glasses, blowing cigarette smoke through her sensual red lips.  David Bowie beside her, his iconic eyes hidden behind circular sunglasses, those cheekbones, that hair.  Quick cuts as Bauhaus plays, they find a nice New Wave couple at the club and take them home to an 80’s Art Deco mansion.  Anne Magnuson does a black leather strip tease in front of a blank slide projector before getting drained in the kitchen by David Bowie.  Catherine wears her studded black leather evening gloves as she attacks the boyfriend in the living room.
Another quick 80’s montage of thighs in black stockings, howling monkeys, and Peter Murphy before the knives come out and the blood spills.  Finally David and Catherine as John and Miriam Blaylock, the vampire power couple, drive across the Brooklyn Bridge and return to their luxe Manhattan brownstone with a convenient crematorium furnace in the basement.  The next morning they practice Schubert’s Trio in E-flat, Opus 100, which has been used a lot as cinematic shorthand to describe an elegant killer.  Susan Sarandon as Dr. Sarah Roberts, medical researcher (those were her monkeys) is introduced as a blood disease anti-aging specialist, and the trio is complete.
Catherine Deneuve is regal, elegant, and aloof, dressed mostly in black in white, with hats and veils and perfect crimson lips.  She’s arguably France’s greatest actor, with really no American equivalent, except perhaps for Joan Crawford, who approached her unique and alchemical combination of acting chops, star power and icy, indifferent beauty.
The Hunger is in many ways more of a silent movie with interludes of dialogue; so much of the film is told in smoke, silhouettes and shadows.  David Bowie models fedoras (real ones, not the trilbys pretending to be fedoras, learn the difference please) in front of venetian blinds, and everybody smokes.  Cigarette smoke becomes a character, setting mood and tone in the best Film Noir tradition, and the way the smoke fills the screen creates subtle layers of dramatic tension.
Speaking of tension, David Bowie’s character ages about 200 years in an afternoon, and the rest of the movie is about Miriam’s eternal loneliness.  She is the only true vampire, searching out new companions to share a couple centuries with, before inevitably losing them.  She meets Susan Sarandon and the movie becomes a portrait of two versions of women, one predatory and cultured, and the other an 80’s professional woman.  This dynamic is echoed in the juxtaposition of music styles, Schubert and Bauhaus, New Wave and Classical, Miriam and her Old World and Sarah in the New World.
At its heart, all vampire movies are love stories, and virginity metaphors.  And from that perspective it’s really Susan Sarandon’s movie, in the sense that as much as we want to be vampires, live their glamorous and immortal rock star lifestyles, we remain in the end, tragically human.  We have jobs, relationships and chain smoke cigarettes (it was the 80’s), and we fall in love with Miriam, just like she does.
The Hunger is haunting, sensual, tragic, horrific and desperate in places.  David Bowie himself described it as “perversely bloody” in interviews.  The film remains one of the greatest modern vampire movies, a perfect snap shot of its time period, prescient and immortal.
The movie also features a ridiculously young Dan Hedeya as Lieutenant Allegrezza and an even younger Willelm Dafoe as “2nd Phone Booth Youth”.  He has one line: "Hey lady, how ‘bout it?”   But it was enough to get his SAG card and start his career, which extends to this day.
The Hunger was directed by the iconic 80’s director Tony Scott, younger brother of Ridley, who went on to direct Top Gun (1986), True Romance (1993), Crimson Tide (1995), Man on Fire (2004) and Domino (2005) among others before tragically leaping to his death in 2010.  Depression is serious business, kids.  Watching movies fires endorphins in the brain and a lot of people, including your friendly neighborhood superantonio, use them as a coping strategy.  If you find yourself traveling down a dark road always remember, you’re not alone.  Talk to someone, your mind can be your own worst enemy and it’s never as bad as you think.



my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.