Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Cindy Sherman's winsome, largely misunderstood feature film is surely a post-modern masterpiece. What could easily have been just another "revenge fantasy for nerds" becomes, in the hands of this quirky and visionary artist, an excitingly original psychological horror film, as well as a scathing satire on office politics, and a subversive parody of the so-tiresome slasher flick genre.

In Sherman's cynical-yet-bemused world, Woman, especially the emancipated Woman, is a powerful, bitter, and destructive creature, turning against herself and her sisters with vicious glee.

This revelation of the dark side of female emancipation is symbolized brilliantly by poor office worker Doreen (Carol Kane in a stunning amalgam of doormat and psychotic). Doreen is the perfect anti-heroine, a passive-aggressive she-mouse and societal time bomb, molded by crippling abuse since childhood from both men and domineering women. She is emblematic of everything that went wrong when the industrial revolution tried to become "humane" with slapdash injections of social engineering and utopian experimentation.

As in Sherman's stunning photographic work, OFFICE KILLER cleverly illustrates how women can create their own self-image; yet often this occurs in a negative vein. Some have lambasted Sherman for supposedly perpetuating repressive female stereotypes, yet her woman characters are all clearly powerful and autonomous. They forgoe their power to allow subjugation by the workplace, men, or other, more powerful women. They give up their power, or use it self-destructively. Alternately, men are either abusive pricks or cartoonish ciphers.

Sherman's astute eye is all over this glorious film, from the deft compositions to the uncomfortably intimate close-ups to the sweeping textural patterns to the brilliant playing with color, all of which infuses this exciting cinematic experiment with a sense of spontaneity and constant surprise.

This amazing film also performs a virtual cultural miracle: it rescues cinematic "gore" from the hands of misogynist cad-hacks like H. G. Lewis, and makes it playful, theatrical and largely non-punitive. The many corpses laying quaintly about Doreen's living room remind one of Sherman's work with mannequins, her groundbreaking artworks which prophecy through absurd caricature an eventual demise of the objectification of women.

How about "Performance Art - as - Pop Cinema"?


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