Loosely based on Voltaire’s satire Candide, Peter Semple’s Dandy hangs together around a selection of seemingly unconnected scenes featuring Nick Cave, Blixa Bargeld, Nina Hagen, Lene Lovich and Yello’s Dieter Meier. There’s no real story to speak of, rather:
...a floating dreamlike journey that meanders from Hamburg to Berlin, Madrid, New York and Tokyo to the Ganges river, the Himalayan mountains and on to Marrakesch and Cairo. It is a collage reflecting sensations that deal with religion, blues, art, the state of being lost … more of a wondering, a stumbling…
You can tell it’s an art house film as Mr. Cave is credited as “Nicholas Cave” here, and later explained his appearance in the movie:
“It was an experimental film by an Australian/German director called Peter Semple who paid us large sums of money to sit in front of his camera and lay with a gun or a guitar. Me and Blixa were both involved in it. We were very poor at the time.”
In a more considered response, reviewer Emanuel Levy wrote:
Dealing with self-estrangement and, yes, lack of communication and love, Dandy is pregnant with heavy symbolism and simplistic allegories. Its recurrent metaphors consist of close-ups of a dead fish and a butterfly captured in a wine goblet. Drawing all too obvious analogies between the animalistic and human worlds, the image of the real butterfly is crosscut with a human butterfly, veteran Japanese performer Kazuo Ohno, who dances a Pas de Deux with his son Yoshito to the exquisite rendition of “City Called Heaven” by opera singer Jessye Norman.
Unfortunately, the continuous flow of inventive images and sounds is too often interrupted by a superfluous and unnecessary narration about nuclear, violence and torture. And as could be expected of such a film, there are brief philosophical assertions about the meaning of life and death and the dialectical relationship between art and life.
It’s all strangely compelling, though (unfortunately) it never actually goes anywhere. You will find Nick Cave covering The Moody Blues (as well as playing Russian roulette and showing-off his gun-slinging skills), Bargeld looking for directions and singing “Death is a Dandy on a Horse” (from which the film’s title comes), and an unaccompanied duet from Hagen and Lovitch.
Bonus: Nick Cave talks movies and writing in 1988.