LIST CANDIDATE: MANDY (2018)

Recommended

DIRECTED BYPanos Cosmatos

FEATURING: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache,
Bill Duke

PLOT: Red Miller is a lumberjack, but when a gang of cultists murder his girl, he’s not okay.

Still from Mandy (2018)

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: Oh-ho, there are lots of reasons. The first one that springs to mind is that it’s the only movie I’ve ever seen that requires Nicolas Cage to be utterly berserk just to keep apace with the surrounding madness.

COMMENTS: Word was that tickets had sold out within an hour of being made available. I heard it was a fulfillment of “a seven-year-long promise”. And the special press-only screening was fuller than many general screenings I’d attended at the Salle J.A. De Sève. Even after some hours of contemplation, I’m still processing what it was I saw. Obviously, I saw Mandy—but I imagine you get my meaning. The notes I took were more of a mess than is usual even for me, and halfway through, I stopped bothering. With Mandy, Panos Cosmatos has done nothing less than rip a crimson nightmare from the quintessence of vengeance and pour its spectacle into your eyes and ears.

The establishing shot, in which we learn about Red Miller (Nicolas Cage), a lumberjack in “the Shadow Mountains”, sets the grainy-dreamy visual tone. His wife, the titular Mandy (Andrea Riseborough), is a bookish death metal nerd. They have a pleasant life together of quiet love until Mandy catches the eye of some cultists who are passing through. Their leader, a failed folk singer Jesus-wannabe named Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache), commands his minions to kidnap Mandy and make her his lover. A demonic biker gang is summoned to nab the girl. When the drugged Mandy ridicules Jeremiah’s advances, the cult leader exacts his petty revenge, setting Red on the path to vengeance against those who have wronged him. All of those who have wronged him.

It may have been the high volume, the sound mix, or my own increased awareness, but this was yet another movie where the score stood out. Jóhann Jóhannsson’s unsettling doom metal compositions complement the unnerving, red-soaked darkness. Cosmatos’ febrile images on the screen become audible with the music—which, in a film with this little dialogue, is key. A fellow reviewer was somewhat dismissive of Mandy‘s visuals, quipping “You’re really into “Twin Peaks“— I get it.” While there is a grain of truth in that, it does not do justice to what Cosmatos is up to. Mandy is unrelenting in its stylized nightmare, rarely giving the audience a breather in its first half, and virtually never in the second. Like the score, one would best describe the film’s tonal flavor as “Doom Lynchian”: as if Cosmatos caught the football thrown by Black-Lodge-Lynch and ran another sixty yards.

And finally there’s the star himself, Nicolas Cage. Mandy seems tailor-made for him as an actor, aware both of his range and his history. When he’s trying, few can compete with Cage for sheer mania. His performance is feral at times, but the intensity fits with its surroundings. Nothing other than a force of nature could hope to survive the infernal journey that takes place in Mandy. I’d go so far as to say no other actor could be relied on to make Red seem both reasonable and completely unhinged at the same time. Whether he’s armed with a box-cutter, a dueling chainsaw, or the sickest-looking axe this side of a bad dream, Nicolas Cage bloodily carries us through Cosmatos’ Bosch-Dante deathscape.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…by no means a perfect film and is likely going to turn off a fair number of viewers who aren’t on board for its concentrated, unadulterated weirdness. But for those who are willing to take the ride, you’re in for a bizarre, bloody treat featuring a particularly extra Nic Cage, giving his best performance in years… Mandy is destined to become one of the quintessential cult movies, and a sort of arcane codeword amongst devotees of weird and wild films.”–Dan Casey, Nerdist (Sundance screening)

12 thoughts on “LIST CANDIDATE: MANDY (2018)”

  1. *pant pant* Please stop, I can only get so aroused!

    Nick cage is forever on my doo-doo list for what he did to *The Wicker Man* (there is no atonement for that. none.) but this is still reserving a spot on my gotta-see list already.

    1. “Mandy” is a gotta-see for any 366 fan who can stomach a fair amount of violence.

      In regards to Mr Cage’s “Wicker Man” outing, certainly Neil LaBute, as the director, or Heidi Levitt, as the casting director, should shoulder more of the blame. (I know that Nicolas Cage was on board as a producer, but a good director should really have done his job better of Directing the talent.)

  2. Saw Mandy on the FFF yesterday. I did enjoy it, but in retrospect I’m a bit surprised by all the praise and hype that this film has already received. While it definitely is gory, I didn’t feel very shocked by the way the violence is displayed. It’s more of a provocatively explicit over the top and hence at times a bit goofy violence you’ve seen in many other splatter films than film violence that seems so believable that it makes you cringe and gives you the impulse to close your eyes (wuss!).
    Mandy (the character) doesn’t seem to be more than an excuse/justification for Nicolas Cage to run wild. This film doesn’t strike me as very weird either. Yea, it has a nice production design, nice score, interesting setting, nice, nice. Maybe I missed something, but everything that came off as weird to me was explained at some point. Dreams are even marked with a different motion picture technique. The only truly fantastic shot I remember is the ending shot since I can’t think of any place on earth that looks like that.
    Like I said: I did enjoy the film. And the scene when Cage is driving away after meeting Jeremiah made me grin very hard. I’m certain that the look on his face will be seen in many many “my face when…”-memes. But all in all I don’t see much here than beautiful and very stylish splatter trash. That’s enough for me, but after all the fuss around it I kinda expected a bit more.

    (Btw, here’s a little death metal nerd nitpicking: I haven’t noticed any reference to actual death metal. Maybe I missed some lyrical references, but neither Mötley Crüe nor Black Sabbath played death metal.)

  3. I bow to your “death metal nerd” nit-picking. It was intended as a mental short-hand phrase that presumed more than the evidence suggests. (Compared to what the cult-leader puts on offer, though, Mötley Crüe and Black Sabbath are far more metal-lic.)

    As for the rest, I entirely understand your reaction — I know I’ve seen weirder movies, myself. But when I thought of an average cinema-goer, and thought of Nicolas Cage going this ba**s-out, and thought of the tragedy of Jeremiah Sand, well, I stand by my suggestion for Candidacy.

    1. Rest assured that I did indeed giggle when I read the words “death metal” in this context. But as a friend of the genre, there was also the strong compulsion to point out the incorrect use of this term.

      Jeremiah Sand is probably the more interesting character here: The shitty music, the hybris, the selfish malice, the talent to scam groupies into following you nevertheless. These – with the hippie lifestyle – all of them striking similarities with Charles Manson (although Manson’s music was actually way waaay worse than Sand’s singsong). An illustration of how an exaggerated desire to be admired and hailed combined with enough positive feedback as nourishment, the necessary dispositions and lack of self moderation can culminate into a full-blown messiah complex – to the harm of others.
      Imo this is a very interesting topic in times where we allow so called “social media” to form our societies and groom exactly those sociopathic features. But in Mandy only the end product of this pitiful process is presented to us as the villain. I suspect that the way to become a Jeremiah Sand is more interesting and holds more potential for deranged films than the mere punishment of the dead end.

  4. If you’re curious about Sand’s back-story, there are a couple of things of interest on YouTube. If you look up “Jeremiah Sand – Amulet of the Weeping Maze” you’ll not only get the whole song track (in all its 7+ glorious minutes), but also a spoken-word track from Jeremiah that recounts some of his history (around 17 minutes).

  5. Theatrical report: 1 walkout. She was a little old gray haired lady who was also in front of me in the ticket line. She obviously didn’t know what the movie was; maybe she thought it was an adaptation of the 1974 hit Barry Manilow song. She made it through 1 hour, up until the cult leader shot LSD into Mandy’s neck and then dropped his robe and started verbally abusing her. I thought it was impressive she made it that long.

  6. Note to those interested: the Blu Ray release for “Mandy” will be, according to Mr Bezos, on Tuesday, October 30th. (Just in time for some holiday, I shouldn’t wonder.)

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