IMPOSSIBLY FUNKY: A CASHIERS DU CINEMART COLLECTION
For true film nerds this collection is an absolute must, as it is for just about anyone with an interest in Quentin Tarantino, Crispin Glover, DEATH GAME, Guy Maddin, Jean-Claude Van Damme, GREMLINS, Monte Hellman, the novels of David Goodis and Charles Willeford, Richard Stark’s Parker books and the LONE WOLF AND CUB films. As one who qualifies on all counts I found IMPOSSIBLY FUNKY a compulsive read.
The contents are culled from the long-running movie zine CASHIERS DU CINEMART, edited and largely written by writer/filmmaker/madman Mike White. I have my differences with the zine, which I’ve always found wildly uneven, yet it does contain quite a few essential articles (as evinced by the many back issues I have lying around). The value of this compilation, then, is obvious: it includes only the really good stuff from CdC--not all (“Modern Day Midnight Movies” from CdC #14 and Mike Sullivan’s “Thomas Weisser’s American Classics” from #15 both deserve a place in this book), but still more than enough to fill 376 jam-packed pages.
Starting things off are a puzzling introduction by H.G. Lewis about the tribulations of independent filmmaking (making me wonder, and not for the first time, if he knew what book he was introducing) and a forward by FILM THREAT’S Chris Gore. The latter is essentially a rebuttal to an article by Mike White (not included here) detailing how he was booted off a Chris Gore-hosted game show, allegedly because of all the bad things White had written about Gore in CdC. In his intro Gore argues that, simply, he was prohibited from having anyone he already knew on the show.
Chris Gore also claims that “Mike probably wants to punch me in the face and make me bleed in the most painful way possible,” and I’m certain that’s not far from the truth. Gore turns up in the first article of this collection, “The Tale of the Tape,” about the infamous WHO DO YOU THINK YOU’RE FOOLING video Mike White made highlighting the similarities between RESERVOIR DOGS and Ringo Lam’s CITY ON FIRE. Gore comes off badly in the article, as does THE HANGOVER director Todd Phillips, who as director of the NY Underground Film Festival had a tussle with White over FOOLING and its follow-up YOU’RE STILL NOT FOOLING ANYBODY (focused on PULP FICTION), and who according to White sent him a letter addressed to “ENEMY.”
Another entertaining reminiscence turns up in White’s “Theater Daze,” a sharply written piece about working in a Detroit multiplex during the early nineties. Having toiled in a So Cal theater during the same period, I found the article--with its on-target descriptions of moron customers turning up with “no idea what time their movie was, or even what was playing”--especially riveting. Plus, it explains how White came up with his zine’s crazy title: it’s a play on the French CASHIERS DU CINEMA, as Detroit is the (alleged) “Paris of the Midwest,” with a MART on the end in place of the more appropriate, though copyrighted, PLEX.
Other chapters contain an appreciation of John Paizs’s obscure gem THE BIG CRIMEWAVE, a scholarly overview of the films of Japanese provocateur Shuji Terayama, a shockingly persuasive appreciation of HIGHLANDER II: THE QUICKENING, much info on Mr. White’s favorite movie BLACK SHAMPOO, lengthy (and very likely definitive) accounts of the many screenplay incarnations of ALIEN 3, INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL and SUPERMAN RETURNS, and lots more. I admittedly could have done without the section on the STAR WARS flicks (a subject long since been done to death), although the evocatively titled screed “Dude, That’s Your Sister!,” about the original trilogy’s incest subtext, is eye-opening.
Also featured are several interviews, the best of them with filmmakers Guy Maddin and Keith Gordon--who admits “I’ve come to realize that I’m a professional fundraiser, and direct as a hobby.” A brief chat with Bruce Campbell yields an even more memorable line, in answer to the question of whether Campbell has gone Hollywood: “I’m doing an interview for your cheap rag, aren’t I?” Unforgettable book!