Hannibal (2001)

(On DVD, October 2002) I have always suspected that Thomas Harris’ Hannibal was a practical joke played by the reclusive author on the too-rabid fans of The Silence Of The Lambs. Grotesquely overblown with flamboyantly evil characters, it seemed to thoroughly pervert the character of Clarice Starling, laugh at the readers’ expectations of gory horror while overwhelming them with an exasperating array of meticulously-researched details. The film doesn’t appear to be as bad, but it’s still kind of a dark comedy when you look at it from a detached point of view. On some levels, it plays a lot like the most expensive, most pretentious splatter-film ever made: the quality of the visuals and the acting effectively masks a story that comes straight out of a “Weird Tale” pulp story. Director Ridley Scott uses all sorts of tricks to make everyone look better than the material… and it works! Julianne Moore is a respectable replacement for the decade-older Clarice, and Anthony Hopkins looks as if he’s having some fun as the evil Lecter. The over-the-top final scene is effective in a Grand Guignol kind of way, being blackly amusing even as it’s repulsive. All in all, the film works much better than I would have expected, if only for the technical polish: It’s may very well be garbage, but it’s impeccable garbage.

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