Wednesday, May 20, 2009

When I first watched The Silence of the Lambs, I thought how crazy it would be to have Hannibal Lecter out in the open. The mad fucker would be eating people left, right and centre. He’d be chowing down every day on entrails, brains and flabby buttocks (maybe even titties and testes). No one would be safe. You’d be walking down the street and the next thing you’d know a camp Welshman would be chewing your ear.

Alas the fantasy is a lot better than what’s presented in Hannibal. What we have here is a fat snob with a pinky ring who kills the odd person here or there. You’d hardly think that the FBI would give a shit about the guy. All the people that he kills or nibbles on are lowlifes and scumbags. This isn’t a psycho so much as someone doing a public service. So what if the odd dirty cop gets hung and gutted? And so what if a scummy FBI agent is made to eat his own brains? It’s not like Lecter is kidnapping children and feeding them to their grannies. He’s far too decent for that.

And I guess it’s the positioning of Hannibal as an anti-hero that I find hardest to swallow (pun intended). Since when was I supposed to revel in his antics? Last time I saw him he was biting the face off of some poor EMT. I don’t want to root for this tossbag. Ideally I’d like to see him get fed to some sharks.

Now here’s something that Mason Verger, the film’s main villain, gets wrong. Instead of feeding Hannibal to some sharks or to some lions, he decides to feed him to, er, pigs. Now fair enough they’re wild boars and would certainly be shit-your-pants scary in real life, but in a cinematic context, they don’t really do it. In fact, they hardly seem bothered about eating human flesh. Ferocious they ain’t.

Not that Ridley Scott doesn’t pull every trick to try and make them seem intimidating – close-ups, quick cuts and loud squeals. But try as he might, they just don’t really seem that bothered. Maybe ravenous squirrels would have been better.

But what a clot Mason Verger is. Here we have a villain who spends all of his time collecting Lecter paraphernalia (he buys Lecter’s mask for a quarter of a million dollars) and planning to capture him. But then when he has his foe in his clutches, Hannibal gets loose. But rather than get taken out by Lecter, Verger dies an infinitely more pathetic death. As he sees Lecter getting away, he decides to bully his poor assistant – the guy who does everything for him. Now if ever a time for restraint is asked for, it’s when a serial killer has just gotten loose and you’re overlooking a pit full of hungry pigs. But no, Verger decides to mouth off and the assistant pushes the hapless, deformed, kiddie-fiddling spastic over the edge so that the boars can feast on him. And as he goes over the edge, he hilariously cries the assistant’s name over and over again. ‘Cordell! Cordell!’ It’s absolutely pathetic.

But then most of the film is pathetic. For instance, the beginning titles end with a bunch of pigeons making a pattern that resembles Hannibal Lecter’s face. Ooh, ominous. Maybe they could even make Lecter’s face out of pigeon excrement.

Then you have Lecter’s annoying use of words like ‘goody-goody’ and ‘ta ta’. No wonder the FBI think that Hannibal is more bent than a nine bob note. But what are these words supposed to mean? Are they supposed to hint at refinement? Are they meant to make him sound educated? Are they meant to show how playful and humorous he is? Oh look, it’s a serial killer who talks like a Frasier Crane. Tres amusement, non?

Even more exasperating is the idea that Lecter is supposed to prefer to eat the rude. Again, what happened to the psycho in Silence of the Lambs who ate the face of a poor EMT? A cannibal who eats people for society? Don’t make me laugh. And apparently he didn’t eat his guard because his guard was civil to him. Well isn’t that doodily dandily? He does his best to only eat bastards. So does that mean that if he lived in a Utopian society he wouldn’t eat human flesh? Does he only ever get the itch to munch on someone if they’re playing their ipod too loud or if someone doesn’t open the door for a lady?

I was also disappointed at Lecter’s gaff. It’s far too ornate. It looks like Liberace’s residence. I was kind of hoping for human munchables left everywhere and for Hannibal to be marinating human skulls with his jizz while howling at the moon because he can’t take his freedom. But no, he adjusts to his freedom with ease and lives an opulent lifestyle. (Quite how he maintains this lifestyle, I don’t know. His place is too large for him to be able to look after it himself. Does that mean that he has servants? And if so, does he eat them when they leave the toilet seat up? And if that’s the case, does he sit there eating a leg while interviewing the latest candidate? ‘Don’t worry, this is rhino leg I’m consuming. They’re rather large, don’t you know and I have one hell of an appetite. Would you like to try some? Goody-goody.’)

However, the most absurd thing is the ending. Lecter drugs Ray Liotta’s scummy FBI agent and then feeds him his own brain. Yes, it’s as silly as it sounds. But because of Liotta’s glorious overacting, it actually ends up being the highlight of the film. I kind of hope that Liotta realised the ending was stupid and he decided to send the whole movie up, because his utter lack of restraint is glorious. ‘That smells great!’

But then Liotta is wheeled off and we have to deal with some Hannibal/Starling nonsense. Do I really care whether he wants to pork her? Do I really care whether she wants his meat? No. Whatever fascination they have with one another isn’t shared by me. They’re just another ‘will they or wont they?’ Ross and Rachel – just quit with the annoying foreplay, bone each other, and then get the hell off my screen.

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