Monday, March 14, 2016

Vampirism Feminism

Byzantium (2013) - Jordan
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I can't think anyone more qualified than Neil Jordan to direct a hardcore feministing vampire film. This sumptuous, bloody take on cold blooded, eternal beings is a total antidote to what the genre has become over the last dacade. Byzantium concerns Clara (Gemma Atherton) and Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan), a 200 year old vampire mother/sister/daughter team in England's depressed seaside towns, trying to eck out a living any way they know how. Clara works as a stripper and a prostitute to provide for her teenage daughter but seems determined to keep Eleanor out of her profession. Some vampiric men from the old order, under the guise of law enforcement, are after them because Clara defied their every rule, especially the one about creating a female kind. It's brotherhood of the vampires, sisters not allowed. The duo ends up in a small seaside town where Clara successfully seduces a local schlub who owns an old empty hotel called Byzantium. They move in and turn it into a whorehouse. Eleanor befriends a frail local boy Frank (Caleb Landry Jones) who is undergoing treatment for leukemia.

Through the series of flashbacks, the girls plight is revealed: their origins, foes and deplorable conditions they had to endure in the Victorian era.

While Ronan's classical, timeless beauty is perfect for the incorruptible eternal youth, it's Atherton who shows a great range as a tragic figure as a ferocious survivor and a protector that she is much more than a t&a. Too bad about the hunky knight of shining armor saving the day at the end. I would've liked it more if Clara kicked a little more ass. Byzantium could've easily been a not so subtle message film: the old era is no longer valid, the old way needs to be severed in order to move on, etc (it was based on a stage play by Moira Buffini). But Jordan does a terrific job, making it as an entertaining narrative with beautiful visuals. And it's touching as well.