Hell to the yeah!
The second of two acid-trips I enjoyed seeing splashed all over the big screen during the 2018 New Zealand International Film Festival, MANDY is a lot like “Acid Western” LET THE CORPSES TAN in its vibrant use of colour and hallucinogenic story sense.
If you love the likes of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s EL TOPO or Dario Argento’s SUSPIRIA, the stylistic flourishes, lush colours, psychedelic cinematography and totally committed performances by actors giving not just their all, but a little bit more - then MANDY is for you.
Cards on the table, I went in to see director Panos Cosmatos’ latest a little wary. Critics and movie-fan friends had raved about his BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW, which I found tiresome, dull and just well, didn’t dig.
But MANDY? This is a movie that stayed with me, so much so that I’ve now seen it twice on the big screen, and it just gets better with each viewing.
There’s an unbending law of nature that, sure as gravity throws apples off trees, Nicolas Cage makes at least one great movie for every nine-hundred-and-seventeen crappola ones. Here, as Red the lumberjack, he’s superb, running the full range from subtle and withdrawn to full-bore psycho.
Getting the acting tone right for this kind of over-the-top fare ain’t easy. It’s as if David Lynch were directing an action revenge thriller, but fortunately the cast are superb, from Andrea Riseborough as Mandy, Linus Roach as cult-leader Jeremiah Sand, and it’s great to see character actors Bill Duke and Richard Brake show up in supporting, but suitably demented, roles.
The fabulously off-kilter score is one of the last by the late, great Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, and coupled with Benjamin Loeb’s scintillating cinematography, sound and visuals combine to create a near perfect head-trip.
Set in the distant past time that was 1983, MANDY conjures up a host of crazy trippy midnight movie madness. Red and Mandy’s idyllic love nest is invaded by creepy cult Children of the New Dawn, led by Sand, who doesn’t take kindly to Mandy mocking his manhood.
Before you can say “gratuitous but stylish violence” Red goes Rambo, avenging his girlfriend, taking on demon bikers The Black Skulls, forging a mighty axe, and downing vast amounts of LSD and what appears to be venom from a giant wasp along the way…
Anyway, the plot’s not as important as the telling - and the telling here is brash, bold and mind-bogglingly bizarre. Should it work? Absolutely not. Does it? Hell yeah.
MANDY is a big screen experience to be relished and fully deserving of cult status in its ambition, and single-minded, heightened, Eighties-cinema-tainted vision.