Combustible Celluloid
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With: Sean Connery, Christian Slater, F. Murray Abraham, William Hickey, Ron Perlman, Valentina Vargas
Written by: Andrew Birkin, Gerard Brach, Howard Franklin and Alain Godard, based on the novel by Umberto Eco
Directed by: Jean-Jacques Annaud
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 131
Date: 09/24/1986

The Name of the Rose (1986)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Book Smart

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The director Jean-Jacques Annaud's credits read like a list of pretentious titles that you might have to watch rather than want to watch (Quest for Fire, Seven Years in Tibet, etc.). His The Name of the Rose might look the same, but it's really a decent exploitation film disguised as a proper art film.

Set in a 14th century monastery, a forward-thinking monk (Sean Connery) and his assistant apprentice (Christian Slater) try to solve a series of gruesome murders using thought and reason, while other monks chastise him for not following their beliefs. Annaud does not shy away from extreme gore, horror makeup and a vivid sex scene between Slater and Valentina Vargas (Street of No Return).

The film's highlight comes when the detectives discover the monastery's hidden library in the form of a beautiful and confusing labyrinth. At the same time, the film has a murky look, and -- at 131 minutes -- the thing just runs way too long. F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus) plays an evil religious zealot and Ron Perlman (Hellboy) plays a creepy hunchback. William Hickey (Prizzi's Honor) overacts as an aged monk who fondles Slater's head.

Warner Home Video released a new Blu-Ray in 2011, which is a vast improvement on the DVD, but still a bit murky. It comes with a director commentary track (both in French and in English), a 1986 German TV documentary on the making of the film (46 minutes), a "photo video journey," and a trailer.

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