Fri, Dec 12, 2008 - Page 16 News List

FILM REVIEW: Lust in translation

‘Twilight’ turns the vampire genre on its head with its pro-chastity morality tale of a ‘teenage’ vampire who keeps his fangs in his mouth

By Manohla Dargis  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

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It’s love at first look instead of first bite in Twilight, a deeply sincere, outright goofy vampire romance for the hot-not-to-trot abstinence set. Based on the foundational book in Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling multivolume series, The Twilight Saga (four doorstops and counting), this carefully faithful adaptation traces the sighs and whispers, the shy glances and furious glares of two unlikely teenage lovers who fall into each other’s pale, pale arms amid swirling hormones, raging instincts, high school dramas and oh-so-confusing feelings, like, OMG he’s SO HOT!! Does he like ME?? Will he KILL me??? I don’t CARE!!! :)

And, reader, she doesn’t, the she being Bella (for Isabella) Swan, played with tremulous intensity and a slight snarl by Kristen Stewart. A sylph with a watchful, sometimes wary gaze who’s often cast in daughter roles, Stewart transformed from an appealing actress into something more complex with her brief, memorable turn in the 2007 movie of Jon Krakauer’s book Into the Wild. As the child-woman whose longing for the ill-fated wanderer Christopher McCandless is largely expressed through piercing looks and sensitive strumming, Stewart gave form and feeling to the possibility that the search for freedom and authentic experiences can be found in the embrace of another human being. This was a girl worth living for, if not for that film’s lost soul.

Since living really isn’t an option for Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), the moody, darkly brooding vampire who catches Bella’s eye and then her heart, she becomes the girl worth fighting for, a battle that, as in the book, involves not just malignant forces, but also ravenous appetite. Like all vampire stories, Twilight is about repressed desire and untamed hunger and the possibility of blood, the blood that flows from violently pierced necks and that, from John Polidori’s 1819 short novel The Vampyre to Alan Ball’s new HBO series, True Blood, represents ravishment of a more graphic kind. This is the ravishment that, in its pantomime of seduction and surrender, transforms innocence — like that of Bram Stoker’s sacrificial virgin, Lucy, in Dracula — into “voluptuous wantonness.”

FILM NOTES

TWILIGHT

DIRECTED BY: Catherine Hardwicke

STARRING: Kristen Stewart (Bella Swan), Robert Pattinson (Edward Cullen), Billy Burke (Charlie Swan), Ashley Greene (Alice Cullen), Nikki Reed (Rosalie Cullen), Jackson Rathbone (Jasper Cullen)

RUNNING TIME: 132 MINUTES

TAIWAN RELEASE: TODAY


Meyer’s contribution to the vampire chronicles, the trick that transformed her into a best-selling brand, has been to stanch this sanguineous emission, turning a hot human flow into something less threatening and morally sticky. Edward, you see, burns but doesn’t bite. As in the book, he leads a

numbingly quiet, respectable life with his vampire family in Forks, a small Washington town under a near-permanent cloud cover. His father, Carlisle (Peter

Facinelli), a doctor with a ghostly pallor and silky gait, tends to the living, while the rest of the brood, including his monochromatic mother and siblings, strike pretty poses, play baseball (in thunder and lightning) and occasionally hunt for animals. We think of ourselves as

vegetarians, Edward jokes.

It’s no wonder he looks famished. When Edward first meets Bella, who has moved to Forks to live with her father (Billy Burke), he glowers at her threateningly, his hands clenching into fists. Bella is mystified, and you might be too, if Melissa Rosenberg’s screenplay didn’t turn up the volume as the teenagers grow closer and Edward hints at his true nature. “What if I’m the bad guy?” he asks. (Cue the shrieking virgins.) “I still don’t know if I can control myself,” he later confesses, as someone’s guitar gently weeps. A self-described monster, he has all kinds of cool, superhuman powers (running, leaping, mind-reading), but nothing compares to how he masters his universe: he keeps his fangs in his mouth.

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