23 March 2021
One of the more jaw-dropping debuts you’ll ever see, I’m an Electric Lampshade, begins as an intriguing though conventional verité portrait of newly retired, happily married, 60-year-old accountant Doug McCorkle as he embarks on a song-and-dance career. Before you know it, we’re transported to a queer-positive Manila performing arts class where McCorkle’s transformation begins in earnest and the movie steps into the fabulous dreamland of music videos.
Harlem, NYC-based director and co-writer John Clayton Doyle was born in Oakland and raised in the East Bay burbs, and he successfully meshes middle-class stability and drag flamboyance into a lush fantasia. McCorkle delightedly takes his EDM clubland fantasy to the limit in the lavish Mexico City finale, applying a Leonard Cohen-ish spoken-word approach to sexualized lyrics.
By its triumphant end, I’m an Electric Lampshade has long since abandoned documentary realism and leaves us wondering, not unhappily, where McCorkle’s footlight dream ends and Doyle’s tale-weaving begins.”
31 March 2021
In the winning and surprising documentary I’m an Electric Lampshade, we meet the most improbable rock star – a mild-mannered accountant who retires to pursue his dream of performing.
60-year-old Doug McCorkle is fit for his age and has an unusually mellifluous voice, like a late night FM DJ or the announcer in a boxing ring. Other than that he looks like a total square.
There may be no flamboyance about Doug McCorkle, but it thrives inside him. His own artistic taste is trippy, gender-bending and daring. Think Price Waterhouse Cooper on the outside and Janelle Monáe on the inside.
We follow Doug as he goes to a performance school in the Philippines (where most of his classmates are drag queens) and the montage of his training resembles those in Fame and Flashdance. Doug is a good enough sport to wear MC Hammer pants in a bizarre Filipino yogurt commercial. It all culminates in a concert in Mexico.
17 June 2021
Life used to begin at 40, now it begins at 60 – at least for accountant Doug who embraces his retirement by transforming into a pop musician and travelling to a performing arts school in the Philippines to hone his craft alongside a class of drag queens. John Clayton Doyle’s often surreal documentary I’m An Electric Lampshade is the Avant Garde rise to fame of an ordinary man immersing himself in a different culture and finding artistic inspiration in the people he meets.
Doug McCorkle is retiring from his job to pursue his dream of becoming a performer and during his big corporate leaving party a colleague recommends a school in the Philippines run by Sin Andre teaching vocal performance, dramatics and ‘professional realness’ to his clients. Parted from his beloved wife Gina, Doug is inspired, and his music evolves in unexpected directions.
Clayton Doyle’s film in some ways is an art installation with a plot, as a series of set pieces chart the journey to celebrity for one fairly ordinary man who embraces the visual aesthetics of performance. In one of the film’s longest music-video-like sequences, Doug passes through and dances with groups of people in wigs and face paint, is dazzled by the rainbow nightlights of the city, and explores how make-up and costume create identity, anonymity and community.
I’m not sure what a ‘documentary-narrative hybrid’ is, but I do know the star of this one, Doug McCorkle, is my new hero. He’s a buttoned-up, mild-mannered corporate accountant whose life looks like something from The Office, the sublime American version.
After retiring at 60, Doug puts his marriage and life savings on the line to chase his wildest dream.What opens with an in-your-face visual assault on the senses soon becomes a look at his everyday life. And while he may not have the most scintillating job, his passion for life and trying new things is infectious.
Doug is one of the countless, balding sixtysomething guys who spends his life doing a good job, in this case for a company that values his worth with a bunch of folks who really like him. But like so many guys of a certain age, they think he just conforms to a stereotype. Reliable, trustworthy Doug. And he’s all that, but under the surface is wild, daring, experimental Doug who wants to do crazy things rather than just crunch numbers. So he decides to record a song, and make a raunchy pop video, to the amazement of his fellow workers at his retirement party. The looks between one another say it all: Doug must have lost the plot.
Doug McCorkle was the nice but instantly forgettable kid in school. Years later, he’s worked his way up the corporate ladder as a big-firm accountant. He lives with his wife, Gina, who he clearly loves, in a sprawling property in New York State, the size of a UK stately home. But inside he still feels like he’s a nobody.
After his 60th birthday, with retirement looming, Doug decides to make his leaving speech one his colleagues will never forget. So, Doug’s transformation begins, from a staid, unassuming accountant to an avant-garde, electro-pop star.
He meets with a couple of music producers to explain his dream. It sounds ridiculous, but they go with it. He takes singing lessons; swaps his suit for a T-shirt and shades; has his ear pierced, and gets a spray tan still wearing his white, baggy Y-fronts. It’s both heart-warming and hilarious. Most of his corporate team of 18 years think so too. Except one, who suggests if Doug is serious about following his dream of being a performer, he needs to go to a school to learn the ropes properly. And that’s what he does – in the Philippines.
A bizarre fusion of documentary and fictional storytelling, John Clayton Doyle’s directorial debut, I’m an Electric Lampshade, transcends most shortcomings thanks to its inventive construction and peculiar rhythms.
Doyle’s film begins somewhat plainly with Doug McCorkle, a well-off, white, happily married, 60-year-old corporate accountant who dreams of becoming a pop star à la Michael Jackson or David Byrne. Beneath Doug’s bland, mild-mannered demeanor lies a surprising creative spirit ready to burst into the spotlight. To help commemorate his retirement, Doug produces a short music video with scantily clad women and sexual, “alpha male” lyrics for his signature song, ‘I’m an Electric Lampshade’, to present at his going-away party. He receives enough encouragement from family and co-workers to further explore his musical career. Before too long, Doug is enrolled in a performing arts school in the Philippines, where most of the students are drag queens. As he continues to hone his skills and connects with a multitude of diverse artists, I’m an Electric Lampshade switches from a traditional documentary format to a wild tapestry of dance, music, and blunt symbolism that’s less focused on depicting reality than illuminating art’s liberating power. While lacking an especially compelling protagonist, then, I’m an Electric Lampshade is still memorable, at least when Doyle embraces the weirdness of it all.
2 July 2021
Making its rounds at UK Film festivals this summer, I’m An Electric Lampshade is a fun amalgamation of reality and illusion, dance and song, and passion and feeling.
The story follows unexpected protagonist Doug McCorkle as he pushes himself to achieve his lifelong dream of being a performer. Pushed by his wife and coworkers after he reveals his passion at his retirement party, Doug traverses the globe in search of understanding. While away learning how to perform with a cast of drag performers in The Philippines, we are taken from a strict documentary-style viewing into an eyeful of inventive and subverted frames; we learn more about the inner workings of Doug’s mind, just as he begins to learn more about himself. We see many a performance from Doug himself as well as the varied cast, capturing the celebrations of many different people.
There is a real subversion to what a viewer would come to expect from a documentary, especially one about a retired 60-year-old man. We are snatched away from the norm of documentaries by adding in psychedelic drug use into Doug’s narrative. This subverts reality and blurs the lines of what is actually happening. If I’m being honest, I’m still so unsure what is actually real.