Saturday, 18 April 2009

VAMPIRE'S KISS

Ah, bless the bluster of the blockbuster* and all those who act in them. Right down to their no doubt outrageously expensive little designer cotton socks.

Now …

Nicolas Cage has been doing bugger all of late but turn up in these horridly bloated crapfests and undoubtedly takes home an absolute shitload of cash for doing so. Good for him, I guess. I don't have to watch them and I don't. Unless they’re on free-to-air and I’ve got a six-pack in the refrigerator for company on a Saturday night.

And yet, and yet. It is the actor's prerogative to choose those roles he or she may wish to play, and choose them they do. And, if the actor in question decides to plump for a piece of shit for a shitload of cash over a "little" picture that will play nowhere and do nothing but earn a few worthy plaudits from some obsessive film-stock sniffers, who are we to say they should not?

As I have noted elsewhere (
here and here), both Robert De Niro and Steve Martin now spend an enormous amount of their time and energies appearing in rubbish. And by doing so, I do not believe they are tarnishing the legacy of the good works they once saw fit to grace us with. For the dross will take care of itself and will soon be forgotten while the gems shall live on to inspire and astonish generations to come. Robert Duvall, for example, will be forever remembered for his sterling work in “Apocalypse Now”, “Tender Mercies”, “The Apostle”, “Lonesome Dove” and many, many others, and not for the likes of “Let’s Get Harry” or “Deep Impact”. Bet on it.

And Nicolas Cage will always have
“Leaving Las Vegas”, “Birdy”, “Raising Arizona” and “Vampire’s Kiss”. For these and these alone (and a few others, “Matchstick Men” perhaps), should he be regarded and held in some large measure of respect and gratitude.

“Vampire’s Kiss” is not a horror film. There are no vampires in it. It is a “black” comedy, but not “black” in the sometimes nihilistic fashion of, say, a
Todd Solondz film (I absolutely adore Solondz’s “Happiness” and highly commend it to your attention if you’ve not yet seen it). But it is certainly “black”. In a bleakly comic and ultimately quite disturbing way.

Cage plays a complete arsehole business executive whose grasp on reality is going seriously pear-shaped. Having met a woman at a discotheque (
Jennifer Beals … drool), he takes her home, whereupon she bites him (perhaps), and he begins to believe that he is turning into a vampire.

One of the funniest scenes in the film, and one that reduces me to helpless fits of giggles just thinking about it, is when Cage’s character, in the full throes of his delusion, dons a black cape, shoves some novelty store vampire teeth in his mouth and goes chasing pigeons in the park for a quick snack. Yet, despite moments such as these, if the film could claim to be the antecedent of similar explorations of corporate psychopathy and its degenerative effects on our souls,
Mary Harron’s astonishing adaptation of “American Psycho” would be its closest cousin.

And this sadly under-rated, neglected jewel of a film contains a performance by Cage that is so BIG, so HUGELY BIG that it essentially takes every rule from the various bibles of performance art, that is, the received wisdom that “less is more” in film acting, and turns it thoroughly arse over tit. It’s a major “fuck-you” to the dreary twaddle peddled to the eager and impressionable by so many drama teachers still stuck in their Actors Studio ruts of psycho-dramatic self-indulgence … “Mumble, mumble, mumble, scratch face, mumble, mumble, cry, scratch face, scream a bit, scratch face, mumble, mumble”.

“Over the top” can’t even begin to describe the type of thing Cage does here. For example, the scene with Cage and his therapist. B.I.G. HUMONGOUS. HUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGE, understand?

I recall, upon seeing the film on its initial release in the late 1980’s, a great deal of publicity attached to the truth that, in one scene, Cage ate a real live cockroach. I understand it required a number of takes, that scene.

Well, it would, wouldn’t it?

And why am I talking about this movie now? Because I hadn’t seen it in over 20 years, and it turned up in J&B the other day for 10 bucks.

So, go spend some pennies. Understand?



* Try saying that three times fast when you’re off your knob.

5 comments:

Terry Wright said...

Over the last month, I have read several times about Todd Solondz especially his film, “Happiness”. I am going to find it somewhere soon and watch it. I saw "Palindromes" which was amazing so I have big hopes for "Happiness".

I agree with you about actors like Cage and De Niro who are averaging out their classic performances by pumping out masses of Hollywood tripe. They used to pick their movies very carefully but now they have lost so much credibility. Why? Do they really need the money? They should look to Guy Pierce who lives in Geelong for god's sake but only goes to Hollywood to make exceptional movies(most of the time). There's a new breed of quality actors like Russell Crowe, Leonardo Di Caprio, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon etc. who could make shitloads more money if they choose to but probably got turned off by their heroes like De Niro and Cage being Hollywood sluts.

Ross Sharp said...

Hi Terry, unfortunately, I think something goes very awry between the inking of the contract and the final film.

I'm sure the actors think that what they will be doing will be enjoyable, yet, between idiot producers and studio heads and those damnable audience test screenings that studios insist on, the film ends up becoming a piece of populist garbage.

There's a book, "Monster" by John Gregory Dunne, where he outlines the processes he (and his wife, Joan Didion) had to go through on the production and writing of a screenplay from first draft to last.

What started out as a fine idea became a nightmare. I can't even recall the name of the film - something with Redford & Michelle Pfeiffer.

And it was crap.

And definitely put "Happiness" on your list.

It's a doozy.

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