After hearing many interesting things about the 1989 film Vampire’s Kiss, I had long been meaning to check it out. When I finally watched the film, it far exceeded my expectations and, in fact, I often found it hard to believe what I was seeing on screen! The film is a unique and fairly indescribable hybrid of black comedy, horror and bizarre psychosexual weirdness. It was scripted by Joseph Minion (the author of one of my favourite films, Martin Scorsese’s After Hours) and features a top-notch line-up of female leads in Maria Conchita Alonso, Jennifer Beals, Elizabeth Ashley and Kasi Lemmons. There’s even a brief appearance by New York post-punk-funk legends ESG.
However, the film is really all about Nicolas Cage, who plays a yuppie publishing executive descending into the depths of insanity and/or vampirism. He gives a performance so utterly unhinged and fearless that he leaves all other benchmarks of ’80s screen lunacy – such as Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet, Jeremy Irons in Dead Ringers and Crispin Glover in, erm, anything he’s in – in the dust. Such was Cage’s commitment to the role that he allegedly ate three live cockroaches in order to get the perfect take for this memorable scene.
The film cemented my belief that, when he really goes for it (e.g. in Leaving Las Vegas, Adaptation and, by all accounts, the recent Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans), few actors can match Nicolas Cage’s intensity and utter physical immersion in his roles. For once I agree with Roger Ebert, when he says of the actor:
There are often lists of the great living male movie stars: De Niro, Nicholson and Pacino, usually. How often do you see the name of Nicolas Cage? He should always be up there. He’s daring and fearless in his choice of roles, and unafraid to crawl out on a limb, saw it off and remain suspended in air. No one else can project inner trembling so effectively…. He always seems so earnest. However improbable his character, he never winks at the audience. He is committed to the character with every atom and plays him as if he were him.
Having read interviews with Cage, I also prefer to view his persistently half-arsed hack-work more as a symptom of the lack of seriousness with which he takes stardom and the Hollywood machine, than any deficiency on his part as an actor.
Anyway, I highly recommend you seek out Vampire’s Kiss, if you haven’t already seen it. Quite apart from anything else, it makes a very interesting companion-piece, and arguably precursor, to Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho. If you want to read more about the film, there is a very interesting in-depth analysis of it on the excellent Film Freak Central Blog.