Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Loves of Andy Milligan

Jimmy McDonough's book on exploitation filmmaker Andy Milligan, The Ghastly One, is one of the best books I've ever read on filmmaking and forging a life true to your nature. The two somehow go hand-in-hand.

I'm reading the book slowly, and savoring every word like Belgian chocolate, because I don't want it to end. I know it will end, of course, but I'm putting the inevitable off. I'm delaying a miserable future without this book's magnificent revelations and life lessons. If nothing else, Milligan understood human beings very well. He wasn't terribly impressed with them, but he sure had a handle on what makes them tick, lick, trick, and fick.

He had great taste in movies, too. Tony Richardson's Mademoiselle ('66) was a glittering favorite of his, and it's not hard to see why. Aside from being a stunning piece of subversive cinema, it reflects Milligan's cynical and deliciously lurid world view.

Jeanne Moreau plays a young woman, a school teacher, who is occupied with the destruction of a small, country town while pining for a handsome Italian wood chopper. The Italian is being blamed for Moreau's acts by the racist locals, but he soliders on regardless, handicapped by his weakness for the (not-so) fair sex. Hefty complications ensue.

The film, written by Marguerite Duras, and based on a story by the inimitable Jean Genet, is an unforgettable essay on evil, racism, and deep repression. Moreau, as usual, is a revelation, and proves once again that she was and still is an original without peer. What she does with a stare or the subtlest of gestures transforms every moment of her screen time into a work of complex artistry.

Ettore Manni plays 'Manou', the object of Moreau's affections and the town's simmering hatred. In one scene, he enjoys a siesta beside a fallen log in the forest. His partner berates him for being lazy, but he clearly benefits from this act of renewal. What makes this scene particularly fascinating is that the film's late and great cinematographer, David Watkin, was renowned for snoozing on the set of his movies. On imdb, he is quoted as saying that sleeping is "... the one thing you can do on a movie set that doesn't make you more tired!"

I'm curious now about the source of this scene in the film. Did Mr. Watkin's presence inspire it, or did it inspire Mr. Watkin?

The film's cinematography is ravishing. I mean truly ravishing. Orgasmic ravishing. I stared at it with breathless anxiety, marveling at Watkin's use of single source light and shadows. I shoot a great deal myself and favor the natural over the artificial. As a passionate cinematographer, the work on this movie filled me with enough inspiration to power another dozen movies. I urge you to buy the DVD and submit to its power. Please permit yourself to be sucked into the emotional and visual maelstrom of its fevered wonder.

Beyond highly recommended!


A review of Jimmy McDonough's The Ghastly One will be
posted when I'm ready to bid adieu to it (sometime this year or next)


  1. Why haven't I seen this damn movie? I'm a huge fan of Milligan's, as well as Jimmy McD's book on him and have talked about both dudes at the Cavalcade quite a bit. I'm also a fan of Duras and Genet, because I love all things perverted, especially vintage perversion :), so somehow I am lacking in my life for not having seen this lovely tidbit.

    Thanks for the heads up!

  2. Very cool -- just the screen caps of this movie remind of a higher-budget Andy film. I rented "The Ghastly Ones" years ago on a whim and watched it totally in shock.

    I've wanted to read the book about him for a long time...let us know how it is when you finish!

  3. Jenn -- I'm proud to up-pervert you. We're definitely on the same, moist page.


    Tower Farm -- the book is truly amazing. I will review it when I'm through with it. So easy to see why Andy dug this movie.

  4. Dude, I knew this already! Perversion is my middle name! :) I recently watched a great fetish documentary from the early nineties. Where did I find it? In the dumpster behind my bar! Add on to the perversion, yes, please. And don't ask why I was digging around in the dumpster behind my bar. Answer: I heard someone had thrown away some porno back there.

  5. Read McDonough's new book on Tammy Wynette. Another wowser.

  6. Always meant to pick this book up. I felt the same way about Jimmy Mc D's insane and wonderful biography of Neil Young, Shakey. Thanks for the recommendation.

  7. Jenn -- a film festival from the dumpster? Love that. I'd love to hear what got you passionate about porno one day. You blogged about that?


    J. Moody/jervais -- I'm still keen to read it. Wowsers are everywhere. What else is new?


    Steve H -- I must read his Neil Young book, Steve H. Jimmy McD is such a great writer. You never feel that he's writing from outside or from an elevated position of objective superiority.

  8. Glad to know I wasn't the only one that adored that book. A shame we'll never get to see Nightbirds or some of his other works. You should check out Vapors if you haven't already. Milligan, a true individual.

  9. Let's not forget the Russ Meyer book. Not as lacerating as the Milligan, but funny as hell.

    Mer--according to an on-line interview with McDonough he has given his Milligan print collection to director Nicolas Winding Refn and he is putting them on DVD (including Nightbirds).

  10. The lady In The Car With Glasses And A Gun (circa 1970)June 4, 2010 at 4:15 PM

    Phantom, i am not "J. Moody", i just want to bugger Heather O`Rourkes 22 year-old rotting corpse (and i know you do as well).