Posts Tagged ‘ marlon brando ’

CAGE-FEST!

nickcagecrazyeyesIn preparation for — nay, in honor of — the upcoming premier of Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call in New Orleans, directed by Werner Herzog and starring the great performer Nicolas Cage, the Acme Video blog will be running a series of (at least) daily pieces on the entire Cage Oeuvre, with its startling highs and mystifying lows. It is one man’s tale… a chronicle of madness and obsession.

DAY 1: VAMPIRE’S KISS

I begin with Vampire’s Kiss because, for the uninitiated, for the non-believers, for the haters and the nay-sayers, there is probably no better single testament to Nick Cage’s truly unique, entirely reckless, batshit-crazy brand of “acting.”  This is Cage’s Last Tango In Paris. His Aguirre, Wrath of God. His Silence Of The Lambs. If you crossed Marlon Brando, Klaus Kinski, and Hannibal Lecter you would end up with something close to Peter Loew, Cage’s utterly psychotic method-acting transformation from depressed-skirt-chasing-1980’s-literary-agent to control-freak-vampire-maniac-rapist.

One is tempted to use the phrase “a descent into madness,” but Vampire’s Kiss is more like a private tour of every wing of the nut-house. Loew is mad even at the film’s outset — a spastic, giggling, sexually-charged playboy, with women and money to burn and an awesomely Gothic Manhattan apartment. Cage adopted a strange, high-falutin, vaguely English accent for part, which comes and goes depending on his mood (and in one of several phenomenal scenes with his shrink, it actually becomes contagious; see the clip below). It’s just one of several crazy-as-a-fox decisions Cage makes, choices that would have been disastrous for a lesser actor — or at least one with smaller cajones. The fun really gets started once Loew gets his first vampire bite and begins his fitful, wildly uneven mutation into a blood-starved creature of the night. A fun enough premise in its own right, but both the film — and primarily, Cage — take so many stylistic left-turns that it’s not long before you’re feeling just as lost and desperate as Loew, wandering through Robert Bierman‘s fantastically cheerless Manhattan. Vampire’s Kiss then becomes a truly Kafkaesque fracturing of the Cage psyche. Donning a pair of old-person driving sunglasses, Cage’s movements become decidedly bat-like, as he leaps and flits around his office, screaming and twitching at his lowly assistant because of some completely insignificant file that’s gone missing. Much of the film is devoted to the manic-depressive head games Loew plays on this poor young woman (a perfectly mousy Maria Conchita Alonso) who fears — rightly — for her safety. Cage’s performance is truly one of the moodiest I’ve ever seen, and I mean that in the best possible sense: you can’t look away, and you never know what’s next. Few actors have ever mixed horror and comedy this well.

He eats a cockroach, people (in fact he ate three, one for each take). Gobbles it up. The final scene is an insane Cage-vs.-Cage riff, basically like watching a psychopath simultaneously prosecute and defend himself in a court of law. You MUST see this film.

Impossible to pick just one scene, but yeah… this one rules.

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The Loveless

the lovelessdafoeFor the past couple weeks I’ve been slowly working my way through the work of director Kathryn Bigelow, whose latest film, The Hurt Locker, has been garnering major praise (I haven’t seen it myself). To be honest, her work left me fairly underwhelmed, but it wasn’t for lack of variety; she’s definitely not a director who works exclusively in just one or two genres. Have a look around Acme and see for yourself: she has a film each in Horror, Sci-Fi, Indy, War, and Juvee, plus three more in thriller (those three are easily the worst of the bunch: Blue Steel is Jamie Lee Curtis doing the female cop thing, with a god-awful Ron Silver as her crazed lover/nemesis; K-19: The Widowmaker is Harrison Ford doing his best Russian accent in the face of one of the most expensive independent films ever made — over $100 million, of which it failed to recoup even half; and then there’s Point Break, which needs no synopsis). All that being said, y’all should really check out her first feature-length, The Loveless.

This was Willem Dafoe’s first film, playing the young leader of a biker gang on their way to Daytona who get waylaid in a small, Podunk southern town. I haven’t seen too many films — especially low-budget, independent films — that have gotten the ’50s biker-flick look so right, and Bigelow deserves major credit for that. The bikes, the cars, the costumes and the sets — everything looks exactly as it should, and it’s all topped off with a totally kickass rockabilly score with original stuff from Robert Gordon and John Lurie. But this isn’t just your typical biker-gang-wreaks-havoc flick, as Bigelow punctuates the film with all manner of disconcerting images: from the boredom and malaise on the faces of the local help, to the vaguely-illegal oil business run by town’s antagonistic alpha-male, to the punchy, nervous atmosphere of the bar in the film’s final scene. Working with just a few set pieces, the photography is thoughtful and consistently original, and Bigelow does a wonderful job of insinuating a great deal about the pain of characters’ lives without beating you over the head with any of it. Dafoe’s performance is the real stunner — and even more so given his age and inexperience. Watching him, it’s hard not to draw comparisons to Brando’s early stuff, as he plays the role with a remarkable softness that belies the intensity of his character. Young ‘uns only familiar with the man from his Spiderman role would do well to seek this one out.