|When I first heard Coppola was making this way back when, I was very excited because I was going through a sort of Gothic phase, reading Anne Rice (which was great at first, but I left off after Queen of the Damned) and Mary Shelly and so on, and I thought, Wow: the director of the Godfathers, tackling Dracula. It made titillating sense.
And I remember that, when I first saw it, I loved it. Well, I've just seen it again, and I'm not as enthusiastic about it as I was then. First, if you're going to enjoy this, you're going to have to just let go. That much is clear right from the get go in the first, pre-credit sequence. Way saturated orange reds, overlapping fades, a real "in the studio" feel and a lot of battle yells and arghs in good ol' gutteral Excalibur fashion. Coppola says right off: Let's go over the top. Way over the top.
That's all well and good. The problem for me, ten years later, is that there has been a lot of over the top filmmaking in the meantime, so there's less of a kick here now than there was then. Less a feeling of getting away with wallowing in the down and dirty end of pop culture that actually takes a tremendous amount of craft to pull off well. Which, of course, Coppola's got. Craft in spades.
The second problem is that there less of a sense of genuine awe and mystery on the one hand, and humanity and humor on the other -- points that come to mind now because I happened to bring up Excalibur, which had both.
One thing this movie's got, though, that Excalibur hasn't is erotic pull. Though she'd hate to hear it, probably, Winona Ryder is the central magnet in this field. (She evidently had one of her worst experiences making this film. In interviews, she'd always later compare Coppola unfavorably with Scorsese. Coppola would yell nasty things at her to get her to, well, put out -- and if you've ever seen Hearts of Darkness and can remember the filming of the opening sequence of Apocalypse Now with a sloshed Martin Sheen, you can just imagine -- while Scorsese was evidently a gentleman. Well, he would be, wouldn't he? They were making Age of Innocence, fer chrissakes.) Anyway.
Ryder is always an odd sight, and in particular, an odd sound as anything but a twentysomething West Coaster, but that aside, she's never been more beautiful than in this movie. Whatever Coppola yelled at her, it worked; her Mina has a raging sexual beast somewhere deep, deep inside her, but neither Mina nor Ryder want anything to do with it. That's an irresistible temptation for a centuries-old demon, and on that point, it's quite easy to suspend belief.
It gets difficult again at the end. I certainly don't want to give anything away, but is that... the flash of redemption we see there before the final credits roll? What, love really conquers all? Really? Once you start wondering what Coppola has gone to all this trouble for, besides the lusty bath in the atmo, the whole project, for me, anyway, begins to slip away.