The Bonfire Of The Vanities (1990)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Bonfire Of The Vanities</strong> (1990)

(On DVD, October 2008) This movie was critically lambasted upon release, but if it’s not quite a success, it’s not the disaster that some reviewers have reported. As an adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s novel, it manages to hit most of the high points of the novel, and if Wolfe’s prose can’t be fully adapted to the screen, it finds an appropriate counterpart in Brian de Palma’s swooping direction and ambitious cinematography. The long continuous opening shot is a small marvel of the form, while other sporadic flourishes keep things hopping along. Things aren’t as slick regarding the script, which does an intriguing job re-casting Wolfe’s story into a satiric comedy mold, but falters in the film’s second half with a number of limp scenes that don’t advance the story as efficiently as they should. It’s too bad that the manic quality of the original is only half-finished here. The result isn’t terrible, but it certainly could have been better. The first-generation DVD, regrettably, doesn’t include any supplementary material about the film, which is a shame given that an entire book has been written about the film’s troubled production.

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