By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
- Spoiler Alert
No, Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough) is not the wife/girlfriend of Paul Bunyan. When this movie by director Panos Cosmatos is titled after her, this character’s role is critical to driving the motives of another woodsman to a brink of madness. They were happy once. He’s a nobody about to become a somebody (more on this later). This woman is very forlorn; Riseborough is perfect in this role, offering pathos in her moments of sadness. Because of events that occurred in her youth, she never felt quite right. She prefers to live a life in isolation but yet, her feelings for Red (Nicolas Cage) when they first met, runs deep. The two are soul mates. One day, on her walk home, Jeremiah Sand, a priest of sorts, takes a liking to her and orders his minions to her kidnap her. Linus Roache must have been channeling Billy Drago’s trademark style of villainy, as I was sold instantly!
If you have not seen this movie yet, I advise checking it out sooner than later. It might stick around until Halloween, but it’s already nearing the end of its run at some theatres.
In the Shadow Mountains of South Eastern California, the locals whisper amongst themselves about various cults said to lurk deep in the crevices. Their activities are the stuff of nightmares. From demon biker gangs to secret lodges, the mysteries of Mount Shasta may well have a rival. People disappear but I fear they are prisoners of said cult, enslaved to build their holy sanctuary. Sand often invokes the name of Christ in vain, and his disciples … saints they are not.
The first act is a slow burn. None of these aforementioned details are known as it is a montage of Bloom and Red’s life set to the music of Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson and by act two, Stephen O’Malley of the group Sunn O))). Top metalhead Randall Dunn helped produce, hence giving this film’s eclectic score of Pink Floyd meets Rammestein. This film is a gonzo acid trip of the senses because of this mash-up.
In addition to a strong red palette in the cinematography, lens flares are used. This level of experimental camerawork is rarely seen these days and this film is Cosmatos’ second work. His first film, Beyond the Black Rainbow, is just as trippy. I feel we need more movies in this style and narrative vein than simple ghost stories or yet another slasher. In a different sense, Mandy is a very different take of the Alice in Wonderland scenario with Brothers Grimm taking charge of the writing. The end result feels like seeing the world through an Altered State.
Ultimately, this movie is a revenge cum horror fantasy. When Mandy’s story is over, Red becomes the center of attention. Her spirit persists in a dream-like Ralph Bakshi animation as he is out to avenge her. He is entering Sauron’s world now, and there is no going back to the Shire. Cage is terrific in this work. When he has to look deep into himself to bring out the beast, he better be feared! He gives life to the idiom, never piss off an angry lumberjack welding an axe. Red’s future may well spawn a new urban legend.