And I Need You Today Oh Mandy
“Well you came and you gave without taking. But I sent you away, oh Mandy. And you kissed me and stopped me from shaking. And I need you today, oh Mandy” – Barry ManilowSo what do Barry Manilow and a coke-snorting, dirty-acid taking, Nicolas Cage in full Cage-Rage have in common? You guessed it, MANDY. There are a lot of reviews out there for the new Panos Cosmatos film. And, they’re all right. The bottom line implied by all critics and hometown reviewers is: this is must-see cinema. See it in a theater if you can, and if not, VOD will work. But above all else, see this film.
Whether you’re a viewer who takes notes while partaking in any visual media or you’re a viewer that is struggling with a Bachelor’s In Paradise habit, this film will grab you, rip you apart, and glue you back together. Additional assembly may be required after the destruction of your psyche.
The film plays out as a normal, lets put that in quotes, “normal,” revenge film. Lumberjack Cage is with his heavy metal lover Mandy in a 1983 picturesque cabin in the woods. Small penis cult leader Jeremiah Sands randomly sees Mandy walking down the road and decides he wants the Black Sabbath loving artist. Jeremiah then hires a group of S&M clad demon bikers to fetch her. The Road Warrior biker gang nab Mandy, who gets dosed with acid and in turn makes fun of the cult leader. Failed musician Charles Manson-esque culty McCulterson has a fragile ego. So he gets rid of her and forces Cage to become the Cage Rage he was always meant to become. Oh, and there’s a commercial for everyone’s favorite 1983 Mac N’ Cheese company: Cheddar Goblin (it’s gobblin’ good) - have you seen Too Many Cooks? The commercial acts as a gateway between the world Cage knew before and the Rage he would become. As you can see, it’s a pretty “normal” revenge film.
What draws you in is the hallucinatory aspect of the filmmaking. While you watch the love of Red Miller and Mandy Bloom, there are layers of colors and cross-dissolves that keep you from ever planting yourself firmly in their world. Instead, the atmosphere allows you to inject your own feelings of admiration for another human being. Their love is your love, man. These are the intangible aspects of Cosmatos’ filmmaking. Anyone can add color gels in front of their lights, but not everyone can evoke emotion or create dimension with it. Can Dario Argento and Nicolas Winding Refn? Sure, but those auteurs like Cosmatos understand the psychological effect varying colors can have on the viewer. Anyway, let’s not fixate on this aspect. The entire film is drenched in atmosphere, dread inducing sounds, Johann Johannsson's schizophrenic score, and these are only a few ways in which the filmmaker transcends sub-genre.
Beyond the style, there's another important confluence occurring. Finally, filmmakers are learning how to hone the Cage. Had Robert Bierman known how to balance the rest of his feature film debut Vampire’s Kiss with Nicolas Cage’s performance, that film would have become legendary (and not by cult film standards) and we would have had twenty full years of Nicolas Cage being allowed to do ANYTHING he wanted with his roles. Now, granted, we've been lucky with the amount of real cage or expressionistic Cage that can stay in any picture.
“This is a snakeskin jacket! And for me it's a symbol of my individuality, and my belief... in personal freedom.” Sailor Ripley in WILD AT HEARTFrom eating a live cockroach to screaming about bees, we’ve been privy to some of the wildest Cage moments. Or from giving us a refresher in how to alphabetize to wielding an axe forged from the depths of loathing, Nicolas Cage has cemented himself as an unparalleled oddity when in comes to performers. He’s played the leading man, the love interest, the action man, the vampire, the sensitive, and the comic. He’s been an actor that can seemingly coast on auto-pilot through various roles. He’s been an actor that is complete, believable, and Oscar-worthy. And he’s also been an absurdist who can take a somewhat underwritten role and embellish it to new heights of bat-shit-crazy – a la, Bad Lieutenant, Vampire’s Kiss, Wicker Man, Deadfall, Leaving Las Vegas, Face/Off, Snake Eyes, and Mom & Dad. He’s stated that he enjoys embodying madness and resents the internet for ‘Cage Rage.’ What we see as over-the-top acting is Cage producing a performance we are unaccustomed to in the age of naturalism. He has stated that each of his performances are meticulous and premeditated. We can take that with a grain of salt, but no matter his reasoning, he shines with insanity.
The reason each review will focus on the Cage Rage, the Cage meltdown, or the Cage absurdity – whatever you want to call it – is because this aspect of Nicolas Cage has never been corralled by another filmmaker so perfectly. We’ve seen it flourish in films where we weren’t exactly expecting it, but to know before going into Mandy that you will see the madness of Cage, provides a delightful layer of expectancy. Mandy would not exist as a pleaser of crowds and critics alike if it wasn’t for the presence of Cage. Would the film still be great? Absolutely, but I’m a fan of exploitation cinema. And boy is there a lot of exploitation going on here. There's a chainsaw fight that seemed pulled right from Phantasm II, demons snorting coke and watching porn, geysers of blood spewing forth, face melting claymation, and animation reminiscent of Heavy Metal. I’m a fan of insta-cult movies. The dividing factor between art house schlock and mainstream fare for this film is Nicolas Cage.
But this is not to put any other performance down. Andrea Riseborough’s subdued portrayal of Mandy is spot on. While we only glimpse the love that Mandy and Red share through discussions of planetology, killing starlings, and sci-fi. We also see there is a quiet respectful admiration they have for one another. We feel Mandy’s contentment with Red. It isn’t until Riseborough plays opposite Linus Roache as the cult leader Jeremiah Sand that we see her wild and wonderful range in this character. Mandy will not be a victim, no matter what drugs she’s forced to take. Mandy will not be manipulated no matter what some washed up folksinger / guru says. Riseborough chooses mockery and it remains her strength against Jeremiah. While we’re on the subject of Linus Roache, his cult leader was fascinating. How anyone could follow him is amazing. He has Charles Manson’s failed folk singer wannabe qualities and uses sex to control the women that he’s chosen like David Koresh. He’s an amalgam of cult leaders and insecure. He is no match against the Cage. This is why he’s insulated himself with demon bikers that are addicted to tainted LSD. Like I said, a “normal,” revenge film.
Hurry, while there is still time. See this film with a group of diverse individuals from all backgrounds of life to get the full audience experience.
“Did you rip my shirt? DID YOU RIP MY SHIRT?”