“I want to shake you naked and eat you alive…”
— Johnny (Nicolas Cage) in Zandalee (1991)
As you can probably guess from the quote above, Zandalee is a crazy little movie.
Zandalee takes place in New Orleans, which means that there’s a lot of rain, a lot of jazz, a lot of flamboyant accents, and a lot of sweat. Zandalee (Erika Anderson) owns a boutique and spends most of her time jogging across the city. (Zandalee has reddish hair, comes from a Catholic background, and runs a lot so naturally, I related to her.)
During one of her runs, Zandalee happens to pass a thief who is being chased by the police. The thief flirts with her even while he’s being arrested. The thief, interestingly enough, is played by a surprisingly hot Steve Buscemi. Even more interesting is that, though his character makes a dramatic entrance and gets a lot of good lines, Buscemi doesn’t appear again until near the very end of the movie. There’s really no point to Buscemi being in the film but somehow, it just seems right for him to suddenly be there.
And really, that’s the type of film that Zandalee is. Odd characters pop up and then disappear. Plot points are raised and then abandoned. Events play out almost at random, as if Zandalee’s morning runs are taking her further and further into a dream world.
(It’s all a bit like Lost River, except for the fact that Zandalee is actually memorable in its weirdness, as opposed to just being annoying.)
Zandalee is married to Thierry (Judge Reinhold), a former poet who has abandoned his literary ambitions and taken over the family business. Now, he’s mostly a figurehead who spends all of his time hanging out with drunk and uninteresting Philistines. Thierry is so guilt-ridden over giving up poetry that he’s been rendered impotent. Try as he might, he cannot make love. As he puts it, while standing naked and staring out into the dark night, he is “a paraplegic of the soul.”
And then Johnny (Nicolas Cage) shows up. Johnny was Thierry’s childhood friend. Johnny is a painter and, from the minute he arrives, he’s giving Thierry a hard time for selling out. Johnny also has long, stringy hair and a mustache and goatee. He speaks in Nicolas Cage’s trademark muffled monotone, muttering lines of philosophical pretension. When we first meet Johnny, he’s with Remy (Marisa Tomei, who much like Steve Buscemi, pops up and then vanishes and yet somehow it still seems totally appropriate that she’s in the film) but soon, Johnny has decided that he wants Zandalee.
Or, as he tells her when he approaches her during one of her runs, “I like it when you don’t wear anything underneath….”
Soon, Johnny and Zandalee are having a passionate affair. Much as Zandalee once inspired Thierry’s poetry, she now inspires Johnny’s art. Of course, Johnny is also inspired by cocaine. Along with selling it and snorting it, Johnny also mixes it with olive oil and dips his fingers in it before fingering Zandalee. And, as effective as some of these Johnny/Zandalee scenes are, it’s still impossible to watch all of this without thinking, “What the Hell, Nicolas Cage!?”
(Even by the standards of Nicolas Cage, Zandalee is a strange film.)
Anyway, eventually, Zandalee breaks it off with Johnny and Johnny’s paintings starts to suffer. Thierry realizes what has been going on and it all leads to the scene below.
And, believe it or not, that all happens during the first hour! Even after that epic dance off, there’s still another half hour of melodrama to go! Zandalee is a seriously odd movie.
Zandalee can be viewed, in its uncensored entirety, on YouTube. Usually, I’d embed the film at the bottom of this review but Zandalee is so extremely NSFW that it’s probably safer if you just go to YouTube and search for it yourself.