Thanks to Little Joe Magazine we relished a rare treat last night: a late-night screening of Office Killer - the only feature-length film project to be made by American artist Cindy Sherman.
Office Killer is a gory comedy that follows Dorine, a troubled staff member at Constant Consumer magazine who kills her colleagues, and arranges them around her basement as a rash reaction to rumours of a pending downsize, ineffectually making her own office of the dead.
The film received terrible reviews upon its 1997 release, but as the editors of Little Joe Magazine explained, it is ready for a second-examination and is "a gem waiting to be retrieved from cinema's spam-folder". Office Killer works as a sort-of midlife retrospective of Sherman's work, taking influence from Untitled Film Stills, Centerfolds and her Fashion series, and is essential viewing for any Cindy Sherman fan, even if the artist has disowned the film from her official body of work.
Although low-budget and scarred by rushed editing, the film boasts striking composition and lighting. Every scene offers either an eye-catching tableau or a thought-provoking detail. The final gore scenes are fantastic, totally Sherman and reminded me of the filmed plays of Tadeusz Kantor.
The decision to screen Office Killer at 11.30pm on a Saturday in Dalston was a fun idea and the tipsy laughter of East London artisans and media-socrateses helped Sherman's gormless cast to bask in the comedic side of her tale. Still, Office Killer is well worth watching alone too, perhaps in a high-backed chair amongst candlelit photographs of Dennis Nilsen and Anthony Perkins.
Some of the film's themes are startlingly apparent to a 2012 audience. There are interesting surface motifs such as the arrival of technology, the introduction of email ("some people find it stops them from actually talking to their co-workers!" jokes the editor innocently) but also a deeper narrative runs through the course of Office Killer, a nauseous commentary on power and the invention of it. The relationship between visual and inner power, and the assertion of power within a corporate environment.
The nearly all-female cast of Office Killer is a bitchy sorority with the occasional punctuation of an attractive male post boy giving the film a Lorcan claustrophobia, it made me fantasise about a French and Saunders parody.
The challenging lighting, disobedient plot and awkwardly sparse script of Office Killer gives the film a reactionary and revolutionary air that seems to deliberately resist the magnetic conventions of Hollywood, and in doing-so gives a very Shermanian final production - a piece-de-resistance that borders on the irritable.
The ending is superb too, when we see Dorine driving to a new town with a blonde wig and sunglasses - she has effectively become Cindy Sherman heading to New York to start a career in art. Not to suggest that Cindy Sherman is a killer, although I'm sure in a another life she'd love to be.
There are tonnes of articles, reviews and discussions online about Office Killer so I won't keep you.
Thank You to Little Joe Magazine for their hard work and efforts in securing Office Killer for a UK screening, and for organising last night's event. It was a real calendar highlight for Cindy Sherman's fans across the pond.