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The Big Ship Recommends: Mandy

The cultural apocalypse is ushered in: there will be no post-Mandy.

"The mystic swims where the psychotic drowns. I’m swimming. You’re drowning."

The cultural apocalypse is ushered in: there will be no post-Mandy. Director Panos Cosmatos has taken the "new flesh" from years of retina-burned midnight cinema and grafted it upon his Frankenstein beast; and then he has tried to kill it with fire.

A film of many films (probably attributed to Cosmatos' "cataloguing" writing process), Mandy's intertextuality can be traced back to a lineage of 70s and 80s revenge flicks and also further: to myth and legend; fables of heroes and the beast within and hallucinogenic odysseys guided by shamans. It is a blood drenched cave-painting, fire licked and fractured. But despite passionate homage, Cosmatos’ vision is resolute and murderous in originality as generations of fiction are blended through our modern canon to create an unabashed concept of twisted ego. It offers a new sense of self-awareness: a final answer to the elliptical questions of "post" art. And this self-awareness leads to a respect for the cinematic experience. The tacit acknowledgement that what you are watching is, ultimately, a film means its apex agenda is to build a ride that you won’t readily forget.

Filtered through neon fog that intoxicates the runtime and guarded by a droning, monolithic score penned by the late Johann Johannsson, Mandy looks and sounds and feels incredible: the crimson glare of your screen and deep rumbling headphones stir you from the inside out, awakening something ancient and primal.

So, rage possesses. Reels of grain-dipped film twist and boil in agony and grief works its tendrils into Red (Nic Cage), sealing his fate as the primordial harbinger of chainsaws, battle axes and blood. Cage swings for the fences and scores every single time, the absurdity in his performance yielding a deeper, honest anguish. Once his eyes have fully dilated following the ingestion of a mountain of coke and Lucifer’s LSD (yes, really); we wonder not if his irises are ripped to experience those kaleidoscopic fringes of reality but instead if they have become black pools that tunnel to inky recesses of the heart. 

He has become violence, traversing the film’s barren landscapes governed by ideology and delirium and in these 1 Vs. 1 arenas of light and noise it is difficult to tell if any remaining characters are even conscious or simply expressions of an inner void. It all adds to that dreamy, impossible quality: “If Nic Cage throws an axe at a Satanist and no one is around to hear it…”

Red quotes Joseph Campbell towards the end of Mandy, letting the male ego wash over him like waves on a cliff, in stark juxtaposition to Linus Roache’s Jeremiah Sands who kneels quivering and wretched, his self-proclaimed divinity being ripped from him with every passing second. The quote is apt. Red has completed his hero's journey and tamed hell along the way.


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