>> It’s rare to see mainstream filmmakers take major risks in their work, and typically these auteurs stick to what they know works—and more importantly to what sells. On the other hand, independent filmmakers tend to focus less on box office success, but rather how to craft a uniquely engaging experience. Panos Cosmatos’ new film Mandy is a great example of the strong visual work that independent filmmakers are producing. After Mandy first premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, both critics and audiences were buzzing with energy from this grindhouse flick led by Nicolas Cage. Taking place in 1983, Mandy follows Red (Cage) who works as a lumberjack and lives with his girlfriend Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) in a secluded cabin. After Mandy catches the eye of a manic cult leader, Red’s life changes for the worst.

Cosmatos’ film is pure bliss for those who indulge in the grindhouse genre—the film is expertly crafted and Cage’s performance is refined and focused. For those who don’t find extreme amounts of violence entertaining, they may have a difficult time watching this film or find themselves looking for a deeper plot. Regardless, this film is undoubtedly gorgeous. A truly unique visual experience that is unlike anything you have seen before. Cinematographer David Loeb shines with his ability to work with complex lighting styles. The pairing of Cosmatos and Loeb is hopeful one we will see again in the future. The film's score is one of Jóhann Jóhannson’s final pieces—it’s ambient, electronic, and subdued which complements the film’s visuals almost effortlessly.

Cosmatos reigns in his influences, which are clear throughout the film. His mise en scene is clearly influenced by Kubrick’s later work—extremely wide angles, and scenes composed with great depth. Some scenes are so utterly confusing and symbolic that they’re entirely Lynchian, specifically some of Cage’s expressions towards the camera. Mandy redefines Cosmatos as a director by revealing an artist who could easily influence an entire genre of film.

While Mandy is not for everyone, I highly encourage everyone to watch it for its unsettling and fantasy like eye candy. I can’t say I loved every minute of this film, but I can’t deny how well crafted it is. Not to mention, this is probably the most fitting role for Cage. Although, who doesn’t love a crazed Cage? 7/10 <<