The Ninth Gate (1999)

Co-written, directed and produced by Roman Polanski, this film –loosely based upon Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s The Club Dumas — returns its creator to something familiar: no, not being a scumbag who should rot in prison when he’s not being abused by every prisoner. No, I meant the devil.

Polanski approached the subject skeptically, saying, “I don’t believe in the occult. I don’t believe. Period.” Good thing, as there’s a good chance if the afterworld does exist, he’s going to spend a good portion ablaze.

Dean Corso (Johnny Depp) makes his career conning people out of selling him valuable books and then making a profit by reselling them to rich collectors.

One of those collectors is Boris Balkan (Frank Langella), who has recently acquired a copy of The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows by 17th-century author Aristide Torchia. One of only three copies in print, supposedly the writer cribbed the text from Satan himself and was burnt at the stake. Balkan thinks only one copy is the actual book, so he sends out Corso to verify the other two editions.

Everyone the book has been near has fallen to some cruel fates. Andrew Telfer killed himself after selling Corso the book and now his wife (Lena Olin) wants it back, even if she must seduce Corso. And oh yeah, there are different engravings in every book.

By the end, there are rituals, dudes getting set on fire, multiple murders, Johnny Depp having sex with a mysterious girl in front of a castle, the Whore of Babylon and the Ninth Gate being crossed. Honestly, reading it in these words makes the story sound way more exciting than it is, instead of the movie I watched crawl across my screen.

To top it all off, Artisan Entertainment sued Polanski for taking more than $1 million from the budget, as he kept the refunds of France’s value-added tax instead of giving them to the completion bond company. which would be the guarantee that Artisan had a completed film. Wonderful.

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