Trash cinema or schlock glories?
Mike White brings it on in a new book
Published: November 4, 2010
by Mike White
In 1951, renegade French film critics founded the Cahiers du Cinema, a magazine that revolutionized film criticism. In 1994, Michigander Mike White founded Cashiers du Cinemart, a zine that openly mocked big-budget mainstream films. Over the years, though, it became more than a slaughterhouse for Hollywood’s sacred cows, publishing meticulously researched articles about obscure film figures, including such underappreciated writers as David Goodis and James Ellroy, and such unsung auteurs as Keith Gordon and John Paizs – not to mention bringing attention to virtually unknown films, such as 1976’s Black Shampoo. The zine moved exclusively online a few years ago, and now White has compiled some of its best pieces into a handsome paperback, Impossibly Funky. We chatted with him recently.
Orlando Weekly: What did your zine look like when you started in 1994?
Mike White: It was, like, 12 pages of black-and-white photocopies made off a typewriter, literally cut-and-pasted and photocopied at work when I was working late at night. I had a postage machine on my day job, and when I was alone in there I’d just crank it out. I did that for the first three issues, until it started getting too bulky for that.
Did you have a lot of subscribers?
At first I was all about getting subscribers, but each issue kept getting bigger, and it would cost more to mail, and all the subs I’d gotten earlier would be eaten up by the cost of mailing and printing. Finally, I was like, “I don’t want subscriptions anymore!” Toward the end I had 30 subscribers, but I was sending out a couple thousand to distributors, and that’s where I was getting money from.
When did you get slicker?
Issue 5 was my first desktop-published issue. That was the first one with Nathan Kane of Bongo Comics doing cover art, and he did it for eight issues.
Your book says it contains “13.2 percent new material.” What’s up with that?
It’s not mathematically accurate, but it’s pretty true. I’ve retouched pretty much every article that’s in the book. I went back in and punched it up a little, corrected things that changed over time. The piece on Tarantino was 16 years old, for instance, so I wanted to make sure I corrected stuff where I could. Talking about Todd Phillips, we said he had directed the G.G. Allin movie, Hated, and now he’s gone on to do Starsky and Hutch and The Hangover.
I know that Cashiers du Cinemart title is a gag, but you’ve got some stuff in common with those 1950s French critics – for instance, an earnest fascination with hard-boiled American fiction.
Definitely. Also, the writers of the Cahiers were more into the smaller B-pictures than the major Hollywood productions. They thought that’s where the really fascinating stuff was, looking at the movies that were being churned out by B-directors like Raoul Walsh and Sam Fuller. And I like to think I’m doing the same thing with other schlockmeister directors.
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