Wednesday, March 15, 2000

The Ninth Gate

Posted By on Wed, Mar 15, 2000 at 12:00 AM

Don’t let anyone or anything keep you from seeing Roman Polanski’s new release. The veteran director of gripping 20th century benchmarks – Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown – has delivered a simmering thriller that’s the comeback testament of a major artist.

Whenever a truly great film comes along, there are always jokers (among them, film writers) who complain that it’s "too slow" or "unusual" or "different from the novel." Here’s Polanski serving up a continental gourmet banquet straight from the Alfred Hitchcock cookbook, one that should be savored, and viewers with too many Hollywood happy meals in their heads want faster service.

But The Ninth Gate is great unhurried storytelling. Its superb camerawork (by Darius Khondji, who shot The City of Lost Children and Seven), seamless acting and engrossing script (co-written by the director) are devoted to one thing: furthering the narrative. Watching it is like reading Treasure Island for the first time as a kid.

And what a cast! Johnny Depp, as a rare-book detective mired in intrigue over his head, shows why he’s one of our most personal, flexible actors. His noirish gumshoe, stuck in a horror movie without knowing it, is a wild combination of the cool and ridiculous, the sexy and fatalistic. He joins such doomed-obsessive sleuths as Jimmy Stewart (Vertigo), Jack Nicholson (Chinatown) and Harrison Ford (Blade Runner) in our imaginary film noir hall of fame.

Then there’s the tongue-in-cheek but spot-on casting of Frank Langella (a famous Broadway Dracula) as Depp’s shady client. Lena Olin is uncanny as a fetishist’s dream, a French aristocrat whose animal passions carry an aura of the grave. And Emmanuelle Seigner’s mysterious innocent gives a new spin to the idea of temptation.

Polanski plants just enough visual clues along the trail to freeze us at the edge of foreboding and, as the web tightens around Depp, we realize he’s on to something that none of us is ready for – which is Polanski’s ultimate trump card in this wry, thoroughly subversive (im)moral fable.

George Tysh is Metro Times arts editor. E-mail him at


We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.

More by George Tysh

Read the Digital Print Issue

February 24, 2021

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2021 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation