Capsule Review: “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”

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Francis Ford Coppola’s reinvention of the Dracula myth could be classified in two ways: A classic horror movie for the MTV generation and a love letter to past cinematic giants–among them, George Meiles, F.W. Murnau and Jean Cocteau. On both counts, it succeeds remarkably well, despite some poor casting decisions that hold the film back. (Indeed, while some have tried to plead his case, Keanu Reeves is almost never the right choice for leading man). Coppola relied almost exclusively on old school practical and in-camera effects to achieve his lush, operatic vision, giving this Dracula a timeless quality shared by few other Hollywood films of the era. (The one exception: His overuse of certain techniques–gray, rain-soaked imagery, fast-motion cinematography, hallucinatory montage–that occasionally make the film feel like a goth rock music video.) At the same time, he also plays up the sexual undercurrents inherent in vampire lore, without shying away from its grotesqueries. Credit Gary Oldman’s wide-ranging lead performance, which helps transform Dracula into a tragic and romantic figure, as well as a horrific one.

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