Hunger, The (1983)

The Hunger (1983), directed by Tony Scott.

Ah, to be rich, beautiful and immortal, living languid lives practicing chamber music, going out to clubs at night to find young victims, taking them to a hotel for some sex play, then heartlessly killing them and drinking their blood. Dispose of their bodies at home in a big furnace in the basement. Perfect.

Except: only the icy woman seems truly immortal, with memories stretching back to ancient Egypt. Her companions don't last as long; about 200 years in the most recent case. They age and became cadaverous in hours. But they don't die. They can't. They lie in boxes in the attic and just wait. She grieves and then quickly moves on to recruit another companion, man or woman.

Would everyone agree to that in advance? Anyone?

Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie are nicely suited as the vampire couple. She because she is like an ice queen, he because he looks carnivorous and slightly inhuman.

Impressive work by makeup artist Dick Smith, both in an aging scene for Bowie, and for the vampire cadavers at the end. The final transformation scene is remarkably horrific, but also dry. Terror does not require goo.

That's an unsettling sequence where Bowie ages decades in the clinic waiting room. A real horror metaphor for life: it flies by while you wait in boredom, doing nothing.

We have a hot sex scene with Deneuve and Susan Sarandon, also disturbing because it is about infection and vampire recruitment. Sarandon does her own nudity but Deneuve is clearly using a body double.

Scott's first feature film. For influences he cites Nicolas Roeg (particularly Performance (1970)), Kubrick, Polanski and brother Ridley.

The film was slammed from all directions, critics calling it arty, self-indulgent, esoteric. "True," said Scott, "but that doesn't mean it's not an interesting film." I recall someone describing it as looking like a 97m perfume ad, which is pretty bitchy, but you see the point. The brothers Scott did thousands of commercials and music videos and brought that visual styling to the screen, in this case with blowing curtains and flapping doves. We became used to the look later, but it was new back then.

Scott didn't get another film for four years: Top Gun.

My little circle liked this one quite a bit when we saw it in the theater. When we were young we were fascinated by youth, life extension and immortality. Oddly enough, now that I'm old I no longer care.

When we came out of the theater we told the manager how much we liked it and he did a double-take: "I've never had so many people walk out and ask for their money back".

Yes: too arty, too much chamber music, slow, nothing really explained, glimpses of gruesomeness but no proper action scenes. For general audiences it's a problem.

The intro was hard to see in the theater and is more visible on Blu-ray. At first I couldn't tell it was a vampire film; I thought they might be cannibalistically devouring their victims. The goth band in the intro is Bauhaus, doing "Bela Lugosi's Dead".

Set in New York but filmed in London to save money. A small part for Dan Hedaya as a police detective, and early glimpses of Willem Dafoe and Sophie Ward.

Available on Blu-ray with an edited commentary track by the director and Sarandon, carried over from the DVD. Scott's part must have been recorded around 2004: he mentions just finishing Man on Fire.

He says the scope ratio of the film is in the tradition of Barry Lyndon (1975). That must be an inside joke with his brother, because the earlier film isn't scope.

Regarding the lesbian sex, Sarandon says: "It certainly changed my fan base".

I'm not sure of the logic of the ending and she confirms: the studio insisted on mucking it up, perhaps thinking of a sequel.