The Anatomy of Melancholy approach


A funny overlap between two of the four books that I’m currently switching back and forth between. In a diary entry from the set of The Saddest Music in the World collected in From the Atelier Tovar, Guy Maddin writes:

For years, I’ve been meaning to put into practice my Anatomy of Melancholy approach to directing. And now I finally get to! Having already copied out on index cards various descriptions of depression gleaned from Burton’s ancient tomes, as well as some forty synonyms for sadness culled from a thesaurus, I now start each day by dealing out all fifty-two cards, face down, on the breakfast table of actors who are to work that day. Each performer has a different, sometimes fuzzy idea of a word’s meaning –– for instance, lubrious or throboxyc, which is sadder? Actors love restrictions, and why not restrict them in the only fair way possible: with a lottery windfall of commands drawn randomly from a reference book?

The results have been sensational.

The other two books I’m reading are John O’Hara’s Hollywood and Fassbinder: Life and Work of a Provocative Genius. John O’Hara wrote Butterfield 8, and I’m not at all sure that Fassbinder never referenced Elizabeth Taylor. So maybe there will be more wacky literary coincidences in store for me soon!