Dereck McCormack/ Guy Maddin Pt. 1 (& bunch ‘o new stuff coming soon)

Casey McKinney


For the second week in a row, am planning to attend another presentation and documentary about the leading figures in underground cinema at Whitespace gallery here in Atlanta.  Last week Brad Lapin did a thorough and spirited focus on Jack Smith, and screened Mary Jordan’s documentary Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis.  This week Lapin is back to talk about the work of Guy Maddin.   I know from DC’s blog that tonight at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, Marie Losier, who has directed a documentary on Maddin (which I assume might be shown here in Atlanta tonight?), and whose latest film is about the musician and filmmaker Tony Conrad (who was all over Jordan’s Jack Smith’s doc last week), is showing (I guess has shown by now, since it’s 1 am in Paris) twenty minutes of a film tonight on musician Genesis P-Orridge, a work in progress titled “Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye.”

Well there’s a lot to talk about in all of that, besides synchronicity and the genius of Genesis, but the other reason Guy Maddin is on my mind is that he has the prominent blurb that crests the back cover of Derek McCormack’s last book, The Show That Smells which has been out a little while1, but which I finally read last night.

There’s no simple way to describe this book, which is amazing (will go ahead and spoil it that much).  But then again it is supposed to be a “screenplay by Derek McCormack” directed by Tod Browning, the director of Freaks and Dracula, and so in that sense it is easy to summarize (what’s the old Hollywood adage? if you can’t sell a script in two sentences forget it).  So as not to be repetitive, see the back cover of the book, which I scanned above for the synopsis (and the Maddin quote of course).

What struck me initially about this book is its structure and incredibly taut use of language (no surprise if you are a fan of McCormack’s prior work).  It begins in a (oh sing songy is the wrong term, but then look at some of the characters involved in it) incantation, a repetition of names, starting with country singer “Jimmie Rogers, Jimmie Rogers, Jimmie Rogers…” etc “in a Mirror Maze.”  As time goes on other characters are introduced, and are added to the cauldron of incantations, Carrie Rodgers, Jimmie’s wife, The Carter Sisters, fashion designers Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel, who play out a kind of magical battle of scent potions, Coco I guess trying to save Jimmie from a bout of Tuberculosis, the other well, you’ll see Elsa’s nefarious (well is it nefarious?  not for “freaks” anyway) plots.  Elsa wants to, once all the women of the world are dressed as freaks, to make them become freaks and then eat their children as snacks. In a grand Circus. One with Animals, that’s where the name comes from.  An animal show is a “show that smells.”

Oh I am doing a terrible disservice and have to get ready for this thing soon, so let’s call this part 1 and we’ll see part 2 tomorrow, Sunday at the latest? (next Sunday? writing quick is one thing, writing quick about something you love, well, that’s often a dirty shame. I want some time to ponder. In any case, there’s time for publicity, see fotnote below) Maybe more on Maddin too, Lapin and Susan’s great place Whitespace, yes def, by next weekend.

Okay… more…later

1. …in Canada, the U.S. edition of The Show That Smells comes out in June as part of The Little House on the Bowery imprint of Akashic Books. New cover is also by David Altmejd, but the book is designed by Joel Westendorf, and is beautiful.

P.S. yeah and there’s a bunch of new articles coming this weekend, a new Talk Show, #23 (magical number), a piece on Sci-fi mag pioneer Clarke Ashton Smith, a Busdriver profile (the hip hop artist y’all) and new personal “job” story by Robyn Weisman


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