This column should be titled “Books That Should Be Cult Classic Art House Films”. The Cutting Room by Louise Welsh is one of the best books I’ve ever read and is just dying to be made into a film. It is replete with depraved images, dark undertones and a compelling, if somewhat unnerving hero in auction house front man Rilke.
The story begins simply enough. Rilke, who NEEDS to be played by Nick Cave, is hired to clean out the house of a recently deceased business man. It is a very good deal for his Bowery auction house. They swallow the moving costs, promise to be done in a day and they can have the monster share of the value of anything that they have with only three stipulations… the owner of the items for sale must never be revealed, Rilke himself must clean out her brother’s attic office and the sister of the deceased wants to know NOTHING of her brother’s “Collection.” This alone pings in Rilke’s curiosity and business center. A collection usually means rare. And rare usually means good money. And discretion is something Rilke feels he’s got more then enough practice with having spent an entire life in a deprived gay sub culture of park meetings, glory holes and underground knock clubs. McKindless’ collection changes everything.
Rilke discovers the single best collection of early print pornography he has ever seen. He discovers statuary and collectibles of almost ancient design that show just how far back into history mankind’s love of depravity goes and, worse of the lot, a stack of polaroid photographs graphically showing the last few hours of a pretty girl’s life and that some of the old torture devices of the middle ages still work, and well. In the center of the stack is one photo of McKindless himself staring at the camera with a drugged under aged girl in his lap. Rilke becomes interested, even consumed, by these photographs.
That such things happen in his city confuse him. He becomes obsessed with uncovering as much as he can of McKindless’ life and, more then that, McKindless’ secrets… not the least of which is who is the girl that suffered such a fate. He trolls the underworld once more, this time not just to indulge his own dark side but to throw some light onto this dead girl’s life. It isn’t long before he discovers that the photos are real, the girl did die and that someone doesn’t want a nosy faggy auctioneer upturning their lives.
Although the plot is Hollywood standard in that it comes quickly onto an end that you pretty much could have figured out yourself in about two minutes with those pictures (hint hint White Slavery) the imagery of the book and the characterizations in the book beg for it to be turned into a movie. The flamboyant, bouffante, middle-aged and alcoholic auction house owner Rose and her gay straight man Rilke have a relationship that watching unfold in a dark room with popcorn would be heaven. Rilke’s explorations of the “Under the Counter” or “In the Back Room” shops, the underground photo clubs that were the main stay of European pre-internet pornography would be a field day for a kink friendly cinematographer. There is a serious dark undertow and sex appeal to this book and it leaves you with a cold feeling inside that makes you want to look back on your own life and see just how off the rails you might have stepped. In every nice house of every suburban street there is something hiding in the dark. (Hello! Poster Tag Line! Hollywood I’m doing EVERYTHING for you guys now!)
Remember the movie 8mm? For shock value that movie had appeal. Nothing like it had been done in recent memory, at least since the sexploitation films of the seventies and eighties.
The Cutting Room is a distrubing read. What could be done to it on film just absolutely staggers the mind.