Witness the smoldering ruins of my blown mind. Congratulations, writer-director John Clayton Doyle, your debut feature, I’m an Electric Lampshade, has out-weirded me. Usually, the bizarre merely bemuses me, as I cut my teeth on the work of Ken Russell, David Lynch, and Robert Downey Sr. The crazy barely confounds me, as, during the 1990s, I dived deep into Alejandro Jordowosky, Suzan Pitt, and Rinse Dream.
These days I keep my weird sockets filled with Gasper Noe, Panos Cosmatos, and works of the dizzying duo Helene Cattett and Bruno Forzani. We know bizarre here. We start our day with Cremister 2 and end it with Wonderwall. All that said, the film caught me by complete surprise. Doyle, with his first-time at-bat, joins the ranks of the great midnight movie magicians.
“…decides to spend his twilight years pursuing pop superstardom.”
I’m an Electric Lampshade seems like a cozy inspirational documentary on the surface. Doug McCorkle is a 60-year-old corporate accountant who is the spitting image of the mild-mannered guys James Thurber used to doodle. As he and his wife, Gina, never had children, they have all sorts of options for his retirement. As McCorkle used to love watching Jonathan Demme’s Talking Heads concert movie Stop Making Sense, he decides to spend his twilight years pursuing pop superstardom. He even takes time to cut a single, complete with a music video, to show his co-workers at the retirement party. Their looks of bewilderment are understandable as this was the guy in accounting for 18 years.
But, McCorkle isn’t as mild-mannered as he appears, and neither is this documentary-narrative hybrid. At this point, the filmmaker transforms the film into a capital “Q” quasi-documentary. I don’t even care how much of what happens next really came from McCorkle’s life. Does he end up as big of a superstar in real life as the poster indicates? When I say you won’t believe how the story unfolds, you won’t believe me, and then the movie will hit you right in the kisser. Doyle, whose background is in dance, manipulates images with a Baraka-like flow that melts the walls of the picture. The viewer gets the first taste of this when McCorkle finds Sin Andre’s finishing school for performers, the perfect place to learn how to be a stage sensation.
"…witness the smoldering ruins of my blown mind."