The Hunger ★★★

There was a certain knack of criticism about fifteen years ago that if one said a film was shot like a music video it must therefore be bad (the contemporary point of comparison is now the “it looks like a video game”). How anyone could ever get away with this lazy criticism astounds me (resisting specific call out, but a certain friend’s opinions on Wong-Kar Wai is basically this. He’s wrong). So the opening of The Hunger might as well be a music video and a fantastic one at that – cutting between the musician staring at the camera and grabbing the wires (frame as prison, tactility revealed), jarring cuts between the little mini-narrative it sets up, and all shot in expressive blues, shadows dancing along backgrounds. Not much needs to be said about Tony Scott, Action Painter, that others haven’t articulated much better than I can, but this feels like a for hire job in which the director can get his jollies on the images he creates (theory of cinema based completely on the meaningless presence of excessive white doves). I happen to enjoy all those shadowy blues, dancing white curtains, and slow drips of blood, so I grooved with this.

The narrative, however, is two botched opportunities in one. Takes an interesting turn by by beginning with the “death” of one vampire and the “birth” narrative as the second half, but the psychology of these characters is left rather unexplored, and the moments that would be interesting are shortchanged for visual “poetry,” which is fine if its substantiated. References to both drug addiction and perhaps AIDS feel more tedious than actually intelligent, making this better as a time capsule (including its very 80s Surrandon/Deneuve scene, enjoyable in WTFIU? terms but a little on the silly side). Die hard auteurists could probably make an argument about the film’s obsession with time, aging, and death, themes that play into some of the later Scott films, but I’d rather enjoy this as sleazy 80s camp, made palatable by a great image-maker (the slow zooms and frame slow downs almost recall Brakhage by the end…almost).