Wednesday, March 25, 2009

82) Vampire's Kiss (1988)

82) Vampire’s Kiss (1988) Dir: Robert Bierman Date Released: June 1989 Date Seen: March 24th, 2009 Rating: 2.75/5

There’s something so cruelly ironic about watching Vampire’s Kiss (1988) for Nicolas Cage’s performance that it makes me ashamed to admit that those were once my intentions. He makes Udo Kier in Blood for Dracula (1974) look positively stoic and is easily the biggest blight on what might have otherwise been a valiantly over-reaching social critique of the decadent, power-mad yuppies that have since come to epitomize the period.

To get to that kernel of intellectual curiosity, I’m going to ask you to ignore how director Robert Bierman not only fails to reign in Cage’s hyper-spastic performance but rather encourages it—I can’t imagine Cage getting the idea to eat a cockroach on his own—and screenwriter Joseph Minion’s pseudo-intellectual, pseudo-offensive link between impotence, vampirism and black women. Instead, focus on the ungainly but almost-competent ideawork in the film. 

If Gordon Gekko ever woke up one morning and thought “greed is very, very bad,” he’d be Peter Loew (Cage). Loew is a powerful executive in a literary agency, handling the firm’s big contracts behind his big desk. Though it’s almost impossible to tell that Cage is doing this intentionally, he affects an accent to prove that he’s intellectually superior to his peers. He also gets turned on by mysterious bats/black women that seduce him and suck the blood out of him. Did I hear somebody say “zeitgeist” already? Just wait; it gets better.

Loew’s vampire fetish is a turbulent but obvious metaphor for yuppie guilt, a phenomenon unique in the discourse of white collar fiends, past or present. To hide the fact that he’s (sometimes) remorseful for his larger-than-life, self-indulgent professional behavior, he welcomes Rachel (Jennifer Beals), a bootylicious blood-sucker into his bedroom. As if this weren’t enough, Loew tries to further throw his persistently indifferent co-workers off the trail by manically chasing the skirt of Alva (Maria Conchita Alonso), but unfortunately for him, as he will later find out, he fucked with the wrong Latina.

Loew’s self-destructive fantasies of being a vampire are freakishly fascinating because of the alternative they provide a much-needed alternative to the two main models of American businessmen in melodrama—the morally confused breadwinner and the emotionless sociopath.

Suggesting that there’s a character type beyond the Don Drapers and the Patrick Batemans of the world is hardly revelatory but it is certainly refreshing considering how insanely cavalier Bierman and Minion are in making their point with such a peculiar fetish. It’s as if they were trying to make a kooky comedy to play as the B-feature to Teen-Wolf Too (1987) that also demanded to be put on the couch. The results are jaw-droppingly weird and I’m still out-to-lunch as to whether I mean that in a good way or not.

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