Dear Casper Kelly,
You’re a TV guy, but you must appreciate the magic of seeing movies with strangers. I sometimes forget, especially so soon after, say, binging 27 films at the Toronto International Film Festival. But every once in a while, a non-blockbuster comes out that demands to be seen with an audience. And minutes after walking out of the Mayfair Theatre in Ottawa, I realized that seeing Mandy was one of the best movie theatre experiences I’ve had in a long time. And that’s saying something.
I’ve thrown spoons at The Room with Tommy Wiseau in the room. Sang my heart out, several times—in full drag—at the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Hell, I was even married in a movie theatre (this same movie theatre). But I knew in advance those would all be “events”. When it came to Mandy, the decision to see it in the theatre almost felt arbitrary - especially since the film was released day-and-date with iTunes.
For the first half of the film, which follows a couple living at a cottage in 1983, the weird and psychedelic elements are mostly just hinted at through punk T-shirts, fantasy art, and wildly oversaturated lighting effects. The experience up to that point might have gone over just as well in the comfort of my own home. But then your work showed up on screen. A little interloping commercial, completely non-germane to the story at-hand, briefly capturing the attention of Nicolas Cage’s deliciously Cage-ian turn as Red Miller. He, like the audience, is confounded and compelled by a little green monster on the TV, puking his macaroni guts out on to a couple of delirious children. It’s a strange mix of horror and humour that feels both at-one with Mandy, and also completely separate. Which is why it made sense that it didn’t come from Mandy’s Canadian-Italian director Panos Cosmatos, but rather from you - the guy best known to the (Internet) world for bringing us Too Many Cooks.
From that point of the film on, you guys have the audience is eating regurgitated pasta right out of the palm of your hands.
Let’s not pay short shrift to Cosmatos, who clearly did the heavy-lifting and world-building that makes Mandy such a bizarre and rewarding tale of love and revenge. Your overall contribution might have been small, but it’s the kind of bonus bonkers that rattles on in the audience’s brain after all the tigers, blade-forging, and trippy transitions. Or even the payoffs that got unexpected eruptions of cheers from the audience, and a full-on round of applause as the end credits rolled - the kind usually reserved for premieres or hometown screenings. But you, Cosmatos, or any one else associated with the production were nowhere nearby to hear said applause - so let me pass it onto you. And I’ll now look forward to inevitable midnight screenings when I’m throwing handfuls of cheesy Kraft Dinner at the screen. Or at the very least, singing the film’s praises:
Oh Mandy. You came and you gave a Cheddar Golbin.
And I need you today.