Page 45 Review by Stephen
They knew it! They knew the meaning of glamour; its oldest, original meaning. Glamour means magic. Glamour is magic! Our affectations, our vanities, these are the devil-masks that give us power, that makes us loved or feared.
They are also walls erected to keep others out; suits of armour welded air-tight with attitude.
High above the Celestine factory floor there is a room with a thick, semi-opaque window where sits the world-famous fashion designer, Jean-Claude Celestine, staring into a mirror which reflects an ugly eye, veined and troubled by hair, dealing from his deck of Tarot cards and issuing pre-programmed commands by rapping on glass.
Behind the bar of a busy clubs cloakroom Doll Seguin performs to her captive audience, pummelling them with put-downs as she takes their coats and racks up her verbal victories. Soon she will ascend to another opaque window and vogue. But theres always a heckler, isnt there?
The heckler is Johnny Tare and hes about as convincing a boy as Doll is a dame. Hes Celestines resident dresser and after his act of sabotage ensures Doll gets the boot, and Doll gets her foot in Celestines door as next seasons top model, Johnny finds the shoe is on that other foot.
The seven-page introduction by Alan Moore is as hilarious as it rare, detailing the origins of the script in a meeting of minds with musical magpie Malcolm McLaren, he of the mad hair and constantly fizzing brain. But well get to that later on after a round of applause for WASTELAND and THE COLDEST CITYs Antony Johnston and artist Facundo Percio on account of the wonders theyve worked with the twenty-five-year old project originally written as a screenplay for a film.
As Moore himself notes, the opening sequence in which three distinct beats compete for aural dominance, while adjacent bedsit residents dress to impress for a night on the town, is as impressively translated to the silent page as its gradual fade when the action kicks off on the silent streets outside. Doll certainly knows how to turn heads.
You know, you shouldnt laugh. Im only this way because I have a disability. I was born without a penis.
Christ, fella. Im sorry, we didnt know.
I got it from my mother.
The implication is that Doll is a drag queen. Thats what Johnny assumes, while Doll is convinced that Johnnys a Tom Boy for thats what it says on his hoodie. But this is all misdirection and ambiguity enhanced by Facundos masterful artistry. It is a pretty neat trick draw a girl who looks like a boy who looks like a girl and a boy who looks like a girl who looks like a boy, two elements introduced to the synopsis early on by Malcolm McLaren himself.
As to the Celestines two right-hand Madames, I have no idea what they are, but they look like a couple of spectacularly sour Ugly Sisters.
Oh, my dear, just look at the poor creature. Is she walking, do you suppose, or having sex with a mirage? No, no, I dont think shes quite the thing for us. Although I did think those radiation burns were rather fun. Assuming they werent real, naturally.
Real would be a little too tacky, dont you think?
Behind the scenes at Celestines, meanwhile, looks like the backstage of a theatre or film studio, its walls like temporary slats resembling the rear-side of stage scenery. The whole of Celestines is a far cry from reality, and as Doll gets sucked into its fiery politics she loses sight of the dodgy politics outside and discovers the Madames complicity in a terrible lie: a complex which keeps Celestine creative.
The whole work is heavily and very satisfyingly staged, and Id compare it to Peter Greenaway films like The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover. There are a couple of pages in which Doll Seguin explores the factory which look like something out of an Escher illusion.
Its alluring and seductive, but set against a world climate in thrall to the fear of a nuclear winter, conscription and the effect of AIDS in the army.
Back to the introduction, then, in which Alan recalls the origin of the project in Malcolm McLarens concept of fusing film with comics and searching for an appropriate writer:
Hed decamped to a bustling and thriving comic shop in Saint Marks Place and had asked the coolest-looking thirteen-year-old kid that he could find who his favourite writer was. According to Malcolm, this unusually insightful and right-thinking young man had replied, without hesitation, Alan Moore: left hand of God. In the unlikely event that I ever write a characteristically unassuming and self-effacing autobiography, this will almost certainly be its title.
Alan goes on to extol McLarens virtues, describing him as self-consciously Mephistophelean and one of the most effervescent pop-culture intellects of the twentieth century.
In conversation he was effortlessly entertaining and incisive both, a smoothly flowing stream of arcane details on a dozen different subjects, fascinating linkages and promising juxtapositions all delivered in those sinuous and slightly nasal tones, the most persuasive and most archetypal tradesman at the modern worlds fluorescent street-bazaar.
You wait until you read his reply when Alan asks him what he thought of his portrayal as a saturnine Svengali in Alex Coxs Sid And Nancy. Very funny!
? Oh no, youll have to buy the book, Im afraid.
The FASION BEASTs Tarot deck, by the way, was designed by FREAKANGELS and THE FIRELIGHT ISLEs Paul Duffield. Watch out for THE FIRELIGHT ISLE online later this year. Ive seen the first dozen pages and it is going to be monumental.