The Hunger

1983, Movie, R, 99 mins


After an arrestingly stylish opening sequence--juxtaposing David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve, clad in tight leather outfits and dark glasses, with shots of a rabid test monkey and the postpunk band Bauhaus playing "Bela Lugosi Is Dead"--THE HUNGER takes a nosedive. Bowie and Deneuve, both subdued to the point of near-catatonia, play John and Miriam, Eurotrash vampires who must kill to retain their youth. John senses that he is growing older by the minute and pays a visit to scientist Sarah Roberts (Susan Sarandon), apparently aging nearly 200 years as he waits to see her (the sequence is a marvel of editing and makeup). When Sarah visits John's eerie house, she is seduced by Miriam into a kinky lesbian encounter that culminates in a langorous love bite; before long, the scientist begins to develop symptoms of vampirism.

Today it's difficult not to read this film as an AIDS metaphor--vampirism is portrayed as a degenerative disease acquired through exchange of fluids during a sexual encounter--but it can't have been intended as such: THE HUNGER must already have been in production when the first cases of "gay cancer" were publicized in 1982. That aside, the feature debut of former TV-commercial director Tony Scott (TOP GUN, TRUE ROMANCE) is a slick, largely empty visual exercise with vague thematic overtones about a clash between American and European culture. The Deneuve/Sarandon sex scene, however, is not to be missed by fans of either actress. Watch for Willem Dafoe in a tiny role. leave a comment

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