Memphis film-maker J Michael McCarthy (aka JMM) has just returned from premiering his latest magnum opus, a dystopian, nicotine-fuelled thriller entitled Cigarette Girl – tagline “She’d kill for a smoke” – at the Revelation International Film Festival in Perth, Australia.
Cigarette Girl, which JMM’s described as “a sort of Southern-fried Fritz Lang thing”, is set in the year 2035, when the price of a pack ciggies is $69 and American cities are divided into smoking and non-smoking sections.
Utilising his maxim of “shoot until they make you stop”, Cigarette Girl sees JMM combining a tight script, razor-sharp visuals, hugely creative special effects and a disparate cast to prove, yet again, that you don’t need a Tarantino or Rodriguez-sized budget to come up with 21st century-style, drive-in friendly thrills.
The past decade or so has seen JMM release a slew of classically wayward movies, including Teenage Tupelo (“What if the Twin had lived?”), The Sore Losers (“They wanted meat, so they ate the flower children”) and Elvis Meets The Beatles (“An unpopular movie about the most popular icons of our time”). As you’d expect from a film-maker coming from a 101% rock’n'roll perspective, JMM’s movies all boast awesome soundtracks, too…
JMM’s seriously impressive mash-ups of film noir, B-movies, kino kultur and Southern folklore have brought him nary a whiff of mainstream commercial gain, but decent global DVD sales and plenty of critical acclaim at a slew of celluloid festivals, from Chicago to Toronto, Paris to Stiges.
A true renaissance man, JMM’s also found the time to create videos for the likes of The Hives and Guitar Wolf; collaborate with director Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan) on an MTV series, $5 Cover; helm his own bands; ink comic books for Seattle’s revered Fantagraphics imprint; and lecture on film and culture.
Amazingly, JMM’s achieved all of this as a dedicated family man with a regular day job. For many years, he worked as a tour guide at Memphis’s Sun Studios.
And, yes, I AM biased!