Thursday, March 22, 2012


Happy Spring, everyone! 

B.J. was first to venture out to enjoy the warm weather. He blended right in with the shades of sunshine.

Shades (March 16, 2012)
(Illustration Friday: March 16, 2012)

Friday, March 09, 2012

Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp Film #18. The Ninth Gate (1999)

[What is Johnny Kitties? See Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp for all the details.]

A Date with the Devil
Mr. Balkan offers a special job.
In The Ninth Gate, Johnny Depp plays Dean Corso, a scrupulous rare book dealer contacted by Boris Balkan (Frank Langella), who owns an original copy of The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows. Mr. Balkan enlists Dean to find the two other first editions because, together, the books unlock the gateway to Hell. Based on a novel by Arturo Perez-Reverte called El Club Dumas and directed by Roman Polanski, this film is an old-fashioned detective story with a supernatural twist.

But do I have to see this one?
As I mentioned before, I no longer have any tolerance for scary movies. I think I watched one too many as a kid, so now the corniest, most predictable thrills make me jump out of my seat. I was afraid The Ninth Gate would scare me because Roman Polanski's classic Rosemary's Baby scared me, and – since both stories involve the devil – everyone was comparing The Ninth Gate to Rosemary's Baby. I didn't like The Ninth Gate when I first saw it, and I remember my dad making a stinky face as we left the theater. (He, too, was expecting Rosemary's Baby, which is one of his favorite movies.) Seeing this again for Johnny Kitties, though, it turns out that The Ninth Gate is a great movie! From when I first saw it, I only remembered the crazy ending and the PG-13 creepy bits that freaked me out at the time.

This time, I really enjoyed the mystery and the humor incorporated into it. Unlike Rosemary's Baby, this is a light-hearted story about the devil. It doesn't take itself too seriously and reminds me, in a way, of an old-fashioned Hitchcock film. I loved the atmosphere and pace set from the beginning: Even the 3D-style opening credits start you off sweeping through the nine gates. "I think, within the first 3 minutes of a Polanski film, you feel some kind of uneasiness, some kind of eeriness, a sense of instability in the center of your body," Johnny said.

I still don't like the ending – which must have been my lasting impression – but neither does Roman Polanski: "We had great problems with the ending, and I don't even know that I'm satisfied with the way we decided to go, but that was the best of all alternatives, I think." For me, the last 15 minutes of the movie just get too weird. Starting with a cultish ceremony, everything becomes over the top and some scenes seemed unnecessary. But I never read the book, so I don't know how I'd end it either.

An American in Paris
Johnny jumped at the chance to work with Roman Polanski. (He probably likes Rosemary's Baby too.) Johnny was Roman Polanski's first choice to star in The Ninth Gate, which was filmed in France. The director enjoyed the experience: "Working with actors is so different from case to case: They're different people, different personalities, different approaches, different characters. And, each time you work with a new actor, you have to find a way of collaborating with him," he explained. "With Johnny, it was very easy because he's got a knack for it, for saying lines in such a way that they always sound right. There's never a false note. It's quite simple. There's not much talk or motivation. Other actors keep asking questions; Johnny hardly ever asks anything."

Dean Corso, Book Detective!
Dean Corso isn't the nicest guy, which you find out pretty quickly, but apparently that's what attracted Johnny to him: "I like the idea of hating a character initially, but then growing to like him. In the beginning when you really dislike him, he's bad. But when you grow to like him at the end, he's in fact worse!"Johnny played Dean Corso straight and flat, which isn't how Roman Polanski imagined it: "After a couple of days, I thought it gave the film some different aspect that I wasn't anticipating when I was working on the script," he said. "I think it's an interesting contrast with all those strange and funny secondary characters around him."

I didn't know Lily could fly!
As he searches for these books, Dean Corso has a little help from a mysterious woman (Emmanuel Signer/Lily), who always seems to appear at opportune moments. While fighting off a bad guy (Tony Amoni/Simon) who is trying to steal Mr. Balkan's book (in the bag), Dean doesn't notice the woman literally flying down the stairs to his rescue. Yeah, there's something weird about her....

Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp--Film #18--The Ninth Gate (1999) [January 13, 2012]

What's next?
Johnny caps off the '90s investigating murder most foul in Sleepy Hollow with Tim Burton.

(Except for my drawing, all images © Artisan Entertainment.) 

Tuesday, March 06, 2012


I skipped yoga class today, but The Kitties didn't: We start most yoga classes in a comfortable seated position. Once centered, we bring our palms together to seal the intention or dedication of our practice, sometimes with a single chant of "om." 

Intention (March 6, 2012)
(Illustration Friday: March 2, 2012)