Lets do this!
The year was 1983. The director was Tony Scott, Englishman, weirdo, future director of Top Gun, and brother to Ridley Scott. The cast was Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, and Susan Sarandon. The topic was VAMPIRES.
In this movie, Catherine Deneuve plays a many-thousands-of-years-old vampire (although the word ‘vampire’ is never used in the film) who smokes a lot and wears many incredible hats. In the opening scene, she and her boyfriend, David Bowie, bloodily murder a couple of punk rockers they picked up at what appears to be a Bauhaus concert. Then they take a shower together, and, frenching passionately, they repeat the words “forever and ever” to one another.
GIVE ME A BREAK WITH HOW COOL YOU GUYS LOOK! How did I not ever realize there was a movie with both Catherine Deneuve AND David Bowie inside of it? SMOKING SO MANY CIGARETTES!
Later, they perform the second movement of Schubert’s E flat piano trio with a young person of 100% indeterminate gender, which, if you don’t know this piece of music, please do yourself a favor. Bowie plays cello; Deneuve plays piano; the little person plays the violin. As they play, there are flashbacks to Deneuve and Bowie playing the same piece of music but wearing 18th century costumes (the historian in me must point out that the E flat trio was not written until the 19th century, at which point people were no longer wearing powdered bouffant wigs and high-heeled buckle shoes with knickers, as far as I’m aware, although I could be wrong (and maybe in the flashback they are at a halloween party!)), thus subtly and beautifully indicating to us that these two characters have been alive a much longer amount of time than is perhaps strictly normal. No wonder they play that damn Schubert so well!
Except suddenly, right as he’s playing the cello’s transitional material into the violin solo, Bowie becomes upset and stops. Muttering only the words “forgive me,” he stumbles from the room. The gum-chewing child asks what’s up with him, and Deneuve says “he can’t sleep.”
So it turns out David Bowie is just the latest of Deneuve’s long-term lovers. She turned him into a vampire in the 18th century and they’ve been having a grand old time, but now suddenly he’s aging. Aging!! And really quickly! AMAZING MAKEUP EFFECTS! He demands to know what became of all her other lovers, who he refers to somewhat disturbingly by name, like, who are all these vampires and where are they now? And how old is this Deneuve person, if she’s had all these lovers who all lived hundreds of years? (We briefly see later an image of her in ancient Egypt, so, there’s that) She says all her lovers had the same thing happen to them–suddenly they started aging, and couldn’t sleep, and she doesn’t know why. Bowie understandably seems to think she should have told him about this before vamping him out back in pre-revolutionary France or whatever. She doesn’t seem too concerned–she mostly just leaves him alone in the house, apparently hoping he will finish aging and dying so she can get on with her life. He querulously asks her who she’s going to replace him with and she won’t tell him. THEY SMOKE.
We have also met a very young Susan Sarandon who has the most badass haircut ever. She’s a doctor, working on the secrets of aging. She and her team have this emo monkey in a cage who ages 100 years in five minutes and then turns into a skeleton and then crumbles into dust right there on the VHS tape while they all smoke intensely and watch. Sarandon goes on TV to talk about aging, and poor aging David Bowie sees her and tries to go get her help. Instead she calls him a “crank” and abandons him in the waiting room for hours, during which time he ages roughly 500 years. Then he’s like “You disappointed me” and she’s like “WHAT, YOU GOT SO OLD, WAIT DON’T LEAVE” but he does. When she follows him to his house, Catherine Deneuve tells her he went to Switzerland.
Well none of this makes any sense but giving a plot synopsis of this film really does it an injustice. It’s so incredible and beautiful and strange. My old man is a Tony Scott scholar (not really) and he was pointing out all these characteristic Tony Scott-isms that appear later to great effect in Top Gun. Like almost every scene involves billowing white sheer curtains as a person stands moodily amongst them. There are also crazy Top Gun camera angles, like we are looking down and to the left, from way up high, higher than the ceiling, while a person looks in a mirror or whatever. Also apparently their attic is filled with billowing white sheer curtains and flapping doves. The whole thing is so hallucinatory and strange and wonderful, with the terrible (in the old-timier sense of the word) Schubert plodding through it all, plus some great Delibes later, because of lesbians.
So then check this out. Bowie is now indescribably ancient and stumbling around, and Deneuve is kind of grossed out and sad. He begs her to kill him, to “release” him, and suddenly she tells him that she can’t. That the flip side of their gift of eternal (or at least, very long) life is that they actually can not ever die. That their bodies might wither all the way to dust but still they’d be there, conscious, watching, feeling, within “the rotting wood” of the coffin. He’s so ancient and gnarled and mummified and shrunken that she carries him like a baby up into the aforementioned dove-filled attic, and puts him in a box she has waiting there, and then the camera pulls out and we see a huge stack of those boxes. And she puts her hand on one of them and is like “Alexander, Cynthia, this is John. I love him, as I love you. Be kind to him tonight, my loves,” etc.
SHE HAS ALL HER LOVERS IN BOXES IN THE ATTIC.
It’s so horrible, so amazingly macabre and fucked up. And presented so romantically and beautifully, with the gorgeous music and the billowing curtains and the flapping dreamy doves. And then all those boxes stacked up with slowly-squirming, conscious rotten mummies inside.
Then she seduces Susan Sarandon in easily the most 80’s love scene in all of existence, another one of Tony Scott’s signature dishes. And she sucks her blood. And she makes her suck HER blood. Now Sarandon is a vampire, but doesn’t even realize it yet! But then why is she barfing her guts out, and why can’t she eat? She takes her problem to her team of doctor buddies and they tell her an “alien strain” of blood is “fighting it out” with her own blood. She’s like, oh fuck, I cheated on my boyfriend with that enigmatic and almost unbelievably compelling foreign lady with the quickly-aging husband who’s in Switzerland! How am I gonna get out of this mess?? Better go back over there and have some more sherry.
I don’t want to spoiler it because it’s so good, but suffice it to say that the climax of the film definitely does involve all those ex-lovers rising from their coffins and revenging themselves. “But I love you! I LOVED ALL OF YOU!”
This was the best possible Halloween movie I could have watched, and it’s all thanks to my old man and them being totally out of “The Haunting” at the video store.