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Nicolas Cage film ‘Mandy’ is an instant cult classic (with Johann Johannsson’s final score)


Panos Cosmatos‘ phantasmagorical new film Mandy has, in the three weeks its been out, become a cult hit and star Nicolas Cage‘s most high-profile film, critically and commercially, in years. The acid trip horror/revenge tale was released theatrically and on-demand simultaneously, but this is really a film you want to see with a big crowd of people — Mandy is an instant midnight movie. (Its theatrical run has been extended in November.) It’s also a very metal movie, as Rob Sperry-Fromm wrote about on our sister site, Invisible Oranges:

Out of this primordial soup of devil-horns signifiers, style, and atmosphere emerges a film of remarkably assured form and shape. The strongest moment in the film is a jaw-dropping single-take scene where Red, fresh from witnessing his partner’s death and escaping the bad guys, stands in the bathroom in his underwear and Crue shirt, with a bottle of vodka, aggressively drinking from it, screaming, and pouring it on his wounds. It brings all of Cage’s mania to bear in a way that’s shattering, and serves as a pivot point between the quiet beauty and menace of the first half and the b-movie carnage of the second. It clarifies the film’s high-low approach, and grounds the ensuing carnage in deeply felt rage and sorrow.

The film is aware of Cage’s not-always-serious cultural connotations, and it uses them to communicate often contradictory aims — the artificiality of his performance conjures genuine emotion, brings the film to a register where camp and solemnity can harmonize. This relationship, to me, is a quintessentially metal one — rage and violence as a product of real despair. Metal is in many ways an aesthetic embodiment of that concept in the ways it seeks to justify and give expression to the uglier sides of living, often by pairing them with nastier kinds of fun. For the first time that I can recall, Mandy made me wonder whether there might be a genuine natural affinity between heavy metal and the history of high-minded slowcore European art-cinema that this film draws from… in that each mines discomfort in pursuit of transcendence.

The film makes great use of King Crimson’s “Starless” in its opening credits and it features a powerful score by Jóhann Jóhannsson which was his final work (he died earlier this year). It features Sunn O)))’s Stephen O’Malley on guitar, works in foreboding synths and black metal into its sonic tapestry and is an integral part of the film’s appeal. You can can stream the score, and check out the trailer for the film, below.

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