Thursday, October 29, 2015

Vampire's Kiss (Robert Bierman, 1988)

According to the unofficial film criticism handbook, there are precisely two options you can choose when attempting to construct a review for Joseph Minion's Vampire's Kiss (a.k.a. Поцелуй вампира). The first, and most obvious one, involves feigning mock disbelief over the sheer zaniness of Nicolas Cage's performance as an unhinged yuppie named Peter Loew. Here's an example of what you might stumble across in a review of this type: "The film's biggest surprise comes in the form of Nicolas Cage, whose go for broke performance as mid-level literary agent Peter Loew is a thing of over the top beauty." While I would love to extol the many virtues of Nicolas Cage's "go for broke performance" (it's features Nic Cage at his most Nic... Cagey), I think option number two is more my style. What's that? I haven't said what option number two entails yet. Isn't it obvious? Oh, wait. I said number one is obvious, and both can't be obvious, can they? Actually, option number two is pretty obvious, but only if you're in any way familiar with how my brain works. If you are, then you know what I'm about to say next.

Option number two revolves around Stephen Chen, who plays "Fang Vendor," i.e. the man who sells Nicolas Cage his vampire fangs.

Now, you're probably thinking to yourself: How does one construct an entire film review around Stephen Chen's "Fang Vendor"? Well, you can't. In fact, no one can. That's because I'm kidding (despite my reputation for being ultra-serious, I like to kid around every once and awhile). Anyway, all kidding aside, option number two involves black stockings. I know, what a shocker.

With the exception of Maria Conchita Alonso, every female character who appears in this film wears black stockings. Hell, I bet even Debbie Rochon, who plays Bar Girl #2, is wearing black stockings, and I don't even think I saw her (she apparently appears somewhere in one of the nightclub scenes). But let's be realistic, no woman would be caught dead at a nightclub without black stockings attached to her legs... in 1988.

Nowadays, you're lucky if they're wearing shoes (part of me dies whenever I see someone at a nightclub wearing shorts and flip-flops).

You know what else the film is? It's a feminist allegory, or maybe it's an anti-feminist allegory? It's hard to say. The film is very schizophrenic that way. Nevertheless, keen observers will notice that Nicolas Cage rarely interacts with men in this film. His co-workers are women, his psychiatrist is a woman, his girlfriend is a woman... his "imaginary" vampire lover is a woman.

I don't know why I put the word imaginary in quotes, as it's clear that Rachel (Jennifer Beals) only exists inside Peter Loew's head. I guess part of me kind of wishes she was real. I mean, who doesn't want a biracial woman, whose legs, don't forget, are never not sheathed in black stockings, to come over every once and awhile to suck blood from your neck? Actually, now that I think about it, maybe it's not such a good idea after all. No, not the biracial woman in black stockings part (I'm in favour of both), the blood sucking part. It sounds painful. Of course, maybe pain is your thing.

It wasn't always like this. There once was a time, believe it or not, when Peter Loew dated women who simply wanted to have no-nonsense sexual intercourse at the end of the day. And one of these women, Jackie (Kasi Lemmons), seems quite taken with Peter Loew. So much so, that she agrees to go home with him. Unfortunately, the sexual intercourse they engage in when they get there is anything but no-nonsense. And, no, I'm not referring to speed in which Jackie removes her black stockings, I'm talking about the bat that flew into Peter's apartment as they were getting it on. Yeah, a bat. Talk about nonsense.

While most people would lose their wood during an incident like this, Peter tells his shrink, Dr. Glaser (Elizabeth Ashley), that he was turned on by the bat confrontation. She tries to tell him that his erection was simply a hold over from being with Jackie (residual hardness, if you will), but Peter quickly points out that his aroused state was strictly bat-based. In other words, it was a brand-new boner.

Meanwhile, at work, Peter is having a different problem all-together. You see, there's this contract that he can't seem find. Not wanting to waste anymore time looking for it himself (he's got stocking clad vampires to shag), he assigns a woman named Alva (Maria Conchita Alonso) to look for it instead. I think most of you will agree that this subplot probably shouldn't take too long to resolve itself.

So, did you hear? A mid-level literary agent finds bats to be a turn on. Isn't that crazy? I mean, talk about your... Wait a minute. It would seem that Alva is having trouble finding the contract. That's odd. Did she check the right file? (I wasn't gonna say anything, but it could have been misfiled.) Misfiled? How does someone misfile something? What could easier, it's all alphabetical. You just put it in the right file... according to alphabetical order. You know, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z! Huh? That's all you have to do! I wanted to watch a movie about female vampires in black stockings, not one about misfiling.

To take his mind off the whole filing fiasco, Peter heads down to a nearby bar to unwind. There he meets Rachel, a sexy vampire. Of course, he doesn't know she's a vampire. But he gets a clue that she might be when she bites him on the neck during clothed coitus. The cool thing about Rachel, besides being a vampire, is that she never takes her stockings off. Her stockings, by the way, are like her heart, black as the night sky.

Now, granted, Jackie always wears stockings, too. But she takes hers off occasionally *gasp!* and she isn't a vampire... so, Peter literally ditches her. At an art gallery, no less. He tries to make it up to her, but the lure of a woman who never takes off her stockings is too much for Peter to ignore.

While Nicolas Cage, the cockroach scene, and the glut of black stockings have always gotten the bulk of the attention over the years, I think New York City is the real star of the show. Director Robert Bierman (a Brit) manages to make the city seem more alive than usual. Yeah, I realize that it being 1987-88 (the height of the city's power of as a cultural mecca - The Tunnel is featured in this movie, yo) has a lot to do with it. But I have to say, Vampire's Kiss is definitely up there with movies that make me love New York City.

On a sort of related note, I used to despise the modern, Bloomberg/Giuliani/Fallon corporate cesspool version of New York City (I blame  shows like, Girls, Friends and Sex and the City), but Broad City has softened my contempt for the place somewhat, the "St. Marks" episode in particular.

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