Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ed Park on Edward Gorey's "The Black Doll"

The writer-artist Edward Gorey is probably a special favorite of plenty of movie freaks who sometimes have to turn away from the screen and let their heads cool off with a book. A legendarily omnivorous cultural consumer, Gorey himself poured into his work images inspired by his intake of silent movie serials, Gothic art design, early horror films and and stylish B pictures such as Jacques Tourneur's Night of the Demon. The awesome Ed Park (author of the awesome novel Personal Days, writes in the awesome Moving Image Source: "Gorey also claimed to have exhausted the film archives at the Museum of Modern Art. There he immersed himself in the multipart crime epics of Louis Feuillade (not just the famous FantĂ´mas and Les Vampires but the all-but-unseeable Tih Minh and Barrabas, “the greatest movie ever made”) and encountered one of his 'great influences,' 'a film that no one ever put together': 'The Museum of Modern Art just had all the footage of it. It was Italian, it was a serial, it was called Grey Rats. But it was completely out of context. You’d be watching and say, “Oh yes, that happened half-an-hour ago.” Somebody had thrown it all together in a big box, on reels, and we watched it that way, it took about two weeks.'" Park adds, "This is the dream life: obsessive eyeball mileage, movies as long as a night’s sleep, scenes shuffled out of order, cause following effect, sustained silences in which mouths move and every title card seems to crystallize the swarming drama into koans."

Gorey died in 2000, a development that did nothing to cool the ardor his fans will always have for more work from his pen. Park's observations on the artists were occasioned by the publication of a new small book, The Black Doll, which contains the script Gorey wrote in 1973 for a silent film that was never made. (It was originally published in Scenario magazine in 1998.) Park describes it as "not so much a revelation but the happy, one-time offshoot of a fully formed aesthetic sensibility" and "an enjoyable read in its own right. The images aren’t there, but his words conjure them vividly." Gorey, who once made “a half-hour film that got lost after the rough cut was made,” suggested to an interviewer that the script might serve such directors as Werner Herzog, Pedro Almodovar, or Lars von Trier. Park suggests that the ideal man to make it would probably be Guy Maddin, and it's hard to argue with that. Of course, the publication of the script does very little to increase the likelihood that anyone ever will film it. Everything Gorey did seemed so much the pure product of a mind that saw the world in a way very different from anyone else; the wonder is that he got as much of it safely transferred to paper, in a way that we can only assume (or) hope) did justice to the form it took inside that head.

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