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[Actress and sometime FANGORIA contributor Jenny Wright (PINK
FLOYD: THE WALL, NEAR DARK, I MADMAN) had the unique chance to meet up with
writer and subversive film oracle Kier-La Janisse in LA last week, to discuss her new book HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC
WOMEN. So moved was Wright by Kier-La’s critically lauded book, that she penned
this exclusive essay for us. Have a read…]
HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN,
the new confessional movie book written by Kier-La Janisse, recently
inspired LA’s Cinefamily Theater to run a screening series of films featured in
the book. That’s right, a festival of insanity, running all through February.
Kier-La was here to open the series with a personal
introduction and to have a short discussion with a very excited audience. It
was a wall-to-wall sold out show and I was there with them, listening to every
word spoken about her fascinating,
critically acclaimed book….
And happily, I was able to catch up with her briefly before
the show at a pub down the street from the theater. I felt an instant
connection with her, perhaps stemming from our similarly unstable pasts. Maybe
it’s because, ultimately, we both demand independence. Kier-La is very
unassuming and is easy to like with her long dark street hair and a beautiful
I immediately tell her that I am crazy about her book. And I
For me, it’s as if she’d put all of my heroes together into
one towering book. As I read it, I felt like I’d been waiting for someone to
write this forever. A part of me was, in fact, so satisfied by it that I can
now easily call it one of my favorite books.
While getting seated, I make a comment about how one must
struggle to find your way to freedom within your relationships and how I respected her acknowledgement of
that in PSYCHOTIC WOMEN in talking about her relationship with her now
ex-husband. We laugh as my boyfriend wanders away happily, to eat corned beef
and cabbage at Canter’s Deli.
Well, that was easy…
Her statements from the book hold true.“Yes,” she confirms
she still assesses herself as “driven” and not the “party giving partner,
planning for the future” type.
We are talking about her brief marriage and Kier-La looks at
me and says “Maybe none of these women are neurotic at all, it’s just that they
have fallen through the crack between who they really are and who they think
they are supposed to be.” She smiles. I think she likes that analogy.
During the opening presentation of the series at the
incredible Cinefamily, Kier-La makes some very interesting remarks about her
process in writing the book itself. She reveals that only after years of
collecting information, grappling with her own history, facing truths and
living life was it time for it to be written. It took a better part of ten
years to write and that it wasn’t until she hit a very dark period in her life
that she grasped onto the project, a life preserver of sorts, and swam it to
At one point in the disappointingly short discussion,
Kier-La shakes her head and grins, echoing things she had said to me prior. “Maybe
none of these women are crazy. Perhaps if they were to behave differently, in
context to the movie, that would be real insanity.” The audience laughs. They “get
it.” They like her.
She looks so young, it’s hard to imagine the life she has
lived through and then I look in the mirror and I see the same. The difference
between the woman I once was and the woman I am now. I think many people can
relate to that. I think it’s more than just looking older, it’s that there has
been, for many of us, transformation. Kier-La’s autobiography is about
transformation. Perhaps our fascination with neurotic women in general is their
need to transform in some way.
A desperate need.
In the beginning of the book Kier-La writes,
“I wanted to explore neurotic characterizations
comprehensively so I focused on what I know, namely films I watch align with my
personal experience in that every woman I have ever met is completely crazy in
one way or another.”
There has been good response to the book, although in my
first few e mails Kier-La admitted that she has had disturbing messages. Well,
it only seems befitting that a book that delves so deep into such dark matter
will stir up some shit. But, it’s in the controversy that energy sparks and
When I read HOUSE, I was completely taken by its
authenticity and its natural momentum that can only come out of the energy of
real passion. There is nothing contrived about this book. What an enormously
brave thing to do in a world of commerce...
Kier-La reveals a hard life. With an alcoholic mother and a
broken home, she became a woman who will make all the wrong choices that she
would inevitably have been led to. It’s so well written you feel as though you
are there watching every moment. You can feel the heart beat, the alienation
and anger. Troubles with her identity follow her throughout her life; changing
friends and attitudes through school, on a very regular basis, never really
fitting in anywhere.
The pace and momentum in the book is reflected in the movie
choices. As film itself was changing, Kier-La’s life changes as do the issues
and styles of the films being made at that time, in both horror and
exploitation and “legit” movies. Kier-La says in the book she prefers a “devastating”
kind of movie, the point where the leading lady has been in some way ripped
open and we can see inside her, perhaps even seeing ourselves….
Buy this book now.
HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN is on sale now. Cinefamily's incredible series runs all month. You can find its schedule here.
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