Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Capsule book review: Big Bosoms and Square Jaws

On his bio blurb Jimmy McDonough is nicknamed a ‘literary terminator’ for his refreshingly honest approaches to his subjects. His biography on cult filmmaker Russ Meyer is no exception. Meyer, an independent director known for his films featuring leather-clad superwomen, is not the usual subject for biography.

What makes McDonough’s achievement all the more extraordinary is that he manages to get behind the public caricature Meyer presented to the world — the macho neanderthal with one eye on money and the other on his next star -- and makes you care about him.

Which is not to say that McDonough is a fanboy. Big Bosoms and Square Jaws bring new meaning to the words ‘warts-and-all’. Drawing testimony from friends, lovers and enemies (the three groups are inter-changeable), McDonough’s account manages to simultaneously offer an analysis of Meyer’s work, while sparing no punches in delving into the personal life of this strange, difficult and occasionally frightening iconoclast. The most impressive aspect of this approach is that McDonough manages to analyse his subject in a style that evokes the zany, fast-paced atmosphere of the filmmaker’s work.

Much has been written on the artistic qualities of such Meyer epics as Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and his effect on film censorship, but not the man himself. McDonough does what 50 years of academia could not and deconstructs the strange, contradictory impulses which made Meyer such a unique filmmaker and individual.

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