Saturday, September 22, 2018

o mandy

Mandy is a guttural cry of a midnite film in a pervasive landscape of retro horror. It appeals to
indie movie bros, like the ones at my IFC screening, hungry for something to clap and cheer at--here, it's Nicolas Cage, in rotten ham-my, wheezing, groany gargantuan revenge mode. Director Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow) gives Cage a gift, and let's him run wild, which is the best thing for everyone.

With elements of an acid western, Mandy is appropriately situated in Pacific Northwest--woodsy and barren of much humankind. The setting may be one reason why human interaction in the movie feels so layered and electric. I liked the calm yet foreboding domestic set-up scenes and flashbacks between Cage and Mandy (Andrea Riseborough, raven-haired and raven-eyed, rising to the occasion--all spooky and ethereal). The first half is peppered with moments--usually related to nature and animals (Cage's logging, his tiger sweater, a grim tale of murdered starlings, and a discussion of the planets)--that figure more grotesquely in the second.  When hasty small cult leader Jeremiah Sand (a gripping Linus Roache) notices Mandy walking by, her sci-fi pulp in tow, he immediately wants to capture her for his own.

I seem to come across a lot of genre pics that feel obvious, too much like a pastiche of homage. While there's a mish-mash of influences on display here, from heavy metal to comics to the surrealism of 80s commercialism ("Cheddar Goblin" is already a thing) to splatter pics, Mandy felt fresh and involving--somewhat due to its laconic pacing (fade-outs and multiple title cards break things up) and the director's unusual craft. I also enjoyed the trio of main performances--Cage, Riseborough, and Roache. Roache is particularly oozy and creepy, with his eyeliner and middle-parted blond hair, in an extended scene where he tries to seduce Mandy, playing one of his characters' 70s dittys--"Amulet Of the Weeping Maze"). The late Jóhann Jóhannsson's mesmerizing score booms through, all droning long-tones edified with metallic scrapings, clipped to the beat of the editing (by Brent Bachman). Like the movie, it's boorish, unapologetic and enveloping. ***1/2

-Jeffery Berg

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