Winning The Lottery With Nicolas Cage #13

Hello! My name is Ed and I am trying to win the lottery by watching Nicolas Cage films.

I believe Nicolas Cage performances to constitute magical acts and that watching them in sequence could therefore in itself constitute a magical act that will lead to positive change in my own life. Or at least that’s what I tell people.

So far, I have not won the lottery. Also, I got made redundant this week. For the second time in 12 months. While this could cast some doubt on the whole theory, I maintain that it is too early to tell. Maybe the gods of the Nouveau Shamanic require some adversity before granting the reward at the end of this journey. So, I continue:

Vampire’s Kiss (1989)

Cage’s performance as New York literary agent Peter Loew isn’t just the centre of Vampire’s Kiss, it essentially is the entire film, and it is fairly incredible. This is the story of the unravelling of Loew, a broadly unpleasant yuppy with an easy but empty life, whose own psyche begins to eat itself. He becomes delusional, eventually believing that he has quite been literally turned into a vampire.

One of the more notable scenes involves a monologue that, as written, is basically just Cage reciting the alphabet (he’s attempting to explain the concept of filing to his therapist). But the performance is astonishing — he is impassioned, frenetic — it almost turns into a kind of dance — as his self-righteous fury over nothing regresses into a childlike tantrum.

The film is packed with stuff like this; ostensibly a black comedy, as whole it isn’t particularly funny — but Cage is hilarious, and terrifying for it. He is almost implausibly over the top but it’s what the role requires — in context his ludicrous behaviour becomes mesmerising, menacing. His unwarranted persecution of his secretary over a lost file is genuinely terrifying — as though neither character nor actor know when to stop. There’s a scene where Peter Loew eats a live cockroach, and we are actually watching the actor Nicolas Cage eat a live cockroach, for real.

(SAFETY WARNING: At one point in this film, Peter Loew puts a gun loaded with blanks into his mouth and pulls the trigger, twice. This convinces him he is now immortal. This is absolutely not how blanks work, making gunpowder explode inside your head is a very bad idea, don’t do things just because Nicolas Cage does them.)

Cage’s performance aside, Vampire’s Kiss is at best patchy. We never get quite enough insight into what sets Loew on the path to madness — although apparently some of this was covered in scenes cut by the producers, the start of the film doesn’t give much of a read on whether we should feel sympathy or antipathy to the character in the first place.

It would also have been nice if Alva, the secretary who suffers from Loew’s torments, wasn’t quite so hapless all the way through — Peter’s ultimate comeuppance comes at the hands of her brother, which given all the horrible things she’s been through feels oddly unfair.

On the positive side, the New York locations that have been picked and the way they’re shot manage to deftly transform the whole city into one vast gothic castle — like a sort of 1980s Gormenghast.

Vampire’s Kiss might be the ur-Nicolas Cage film — it’s his wildest performance yet but his utter commitment to this completely unnaturalistic mode entirely pays off, as we witness the almost wilful self-destructiveness of a man who comes to believe that he is, quite literally, a monster.

If you like you could draw a comparison with the almost wilful self-destructiveness of a man attempting to watch 2 Nicolas Cage films a week and pretending it’s going to win him the lottery, but I’m almost definitely not going to start murdering women.

THE NUMBERS:

6 — Loew’s long-suffering secretary Alva gets the number 6 train home.

15 — Loew asks Alva to go through all 15 files their firm holds relating to the German magazine Der Speigel, in order to find details of the use of a client’s short story.

22 — At one point Loew is seen watching the legendary 1922 vampire film Nosferatu (clearly an influence on Cage’s performance as his ‘transformation’ proceeds).

26 — There are 26 letters in the alphabet which, as noted above, Loew recites as part of one of the most entertaining scenes in Cage’s entire career.

35 — Having failed to grow his own vampire teeth, Loew attempts to buy some: he can’t afford a realistic set, so settles for some plastic ones costing $3.50

44 — The cab ride Loew takes to bring Alva back to the office so he can continue to be unpleasant to her costs $44.50.

THE RESULT:

1 number. Truly, I am being tested. But I will endure.

I should probably explain the Millionaire Raffle thing for people who haven’t played the lottery in a while. You get a random word and a random sequence of numbers and then every draw 1 person wins a million quid and 20 people win £20,000 if their words and numbers are pulled out of the hat. I expect it is a digital hat. This somehow supposed to make up for there being 59 numbers now and tickets costing twice as much. This country.

Anyway, you don’t get to choose your Millionaire Raffle numbers based on Nicolas Cage films so it is unlikely I will ever win that. If I do ever win that I will probably mention it anyway for the sake of completeness.

NEXT TIME ON NICOLAS CAGE:

Nicolas Cage fights for fascism in Ethiopia, in the obscure Italian movie Tempo di uccidere. Buon giorno!

PREVIOUSLY:

Apparently Medium makes it quite hard to find previous instalments of this so I have made a sort of index thing, here.

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