Mandy

Rat­tled Cage…

Total Film - - Contents -

Nico­las Cage goes glo­ri­ously bonkers.

Mid-way through Mandy, Nic Cage sits on a loo back­dropped by the worst wallpaper you’ve ever seen and un­leashes a se­ries of gut­tural howls that make Brando’s cries of “Stella” seem like whis­pered sweet noth­ings. But Cage, cin­ema’s bas­tion of bat­shit, is just do­ing his breath­ing ex­er­cises for the main event – a re­venge spree in which he jug­gles a cross­bow, a chain­saw and a hand-forged sil­ver axe to mow down a religious sect and the demons they’ve sum­moned.

It’s the most in­fer­nal per­for­mance yet from Old Nic, who chugs vodka, snorts coke and grins from a mask of gore. And yet it all starts off so gen­tly, with Cage’s hir­sute lum­ber­jack Red Miller snug­gling in front of trashy sci-fi shows with his tit­u­lar wife (An­drea Rise­bor­ough), whose job as a pulp-

fic­tion il­lus­tra­tor lends the movie its crazed aes­thetic. Then the religious nutjobs snatch Mandy for their Mes­sianic leader Jeremiah (Li­nus Roache) and a psychedelic ini­ti­a­tion rit­ual duly spins out of con­trol. The out­come is Mandy dead and Red crouched on the afore­men­tioned toi­let, howl­ing.

If you’re one of the 10 peo­ple who saw writer/di­rec­tor Panos Cos­matos’ trippy de­but Be­yond The Black Rain­bow (2010), then you’ll have an idea what to ex­pect, although Mandy is a good deal more propul­sive and vi­o­lent. Well, in its sec­ond half at least: the first hour is akin to crawl­ing into an opium den to gaze into Satan’s kalei­do­scope, all swirling colours, dis­con­cert­ing su­per­im­po­si­tions and off-beam tran­si­tions. It’s art­house­meets-grind­house, con­sciously evok­ing Lynch’s Blue Vel­vet in mood and di­a­logue (“Don’t you fuck­ing look at me!”) as well as Ing­mar Bergman; the Per­son­aesque mo­ment when two ac­tors’ faces meld to­gether is the most freaky-assed thing you’ll see all year.

The leather-clad demons, mean­while, could be Mad Max ex­tras, or Pin­head’s posse – or even long-lost rel­a­tives of the apoc­a­lyp­tic Har­ley rider who chases down Cage in the Coen brothers’ Rais­ing Ari­zona. And if that’s not nutty enough, the grainy 16mm close-ups of Rise­bor­ough’s face make her look oth­er­worldly – a de­scrip­tion that fits the en­vi­ron­ments built by Cos­matos as he turns the Pa­cific North­west of 1983 into an Iron Maiden al­bum sleeve.

Add the kind of cos­mic won­der­ment that so an­i­mated H.P. Love­craft’s prose, the late Jóhann Jóhanns­son’s fi­nal haunt­ing score and a main ti­tle card that ap­pears an hour into the movie, and you have an ex­pres­sion­is­tic mid­night movie that stirs its many in­flu­ences into some­thing startlingly unique. In fact, so fresh is this night­mare vi­sion painted by DoP Ben­jamin Loeb’s su­per-sat­u­rated colours, it’s a mir­a­cle it co­heres at all, threat­en­ing to run off the screen at any mo­ment and pud­dle on the floor along with your melted brain. Jamie Gra­ham

THE VER­DICT

“YOU RIPPED MY FAVOURITE SHIRT!” Cage loses it in a bloody, druggy, su­perbly crafted re­venge thriller. As­ton­ish­ing.

Hand-forged axes: great in the gar­den and for tak­ing on de­monic sects.

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