Friday, November 5, 2010

My Quest To See the 1000 Greatest:
Pink Flamingos (1972)

Pink Flamingos is #570 in  

Screened 05/30/10 on 35mm at Midtown Cinema
in conjunction w/ The Artsfest Film Festival

Ranked #846 on TSPDT

*this is the first in a series of catch-up reviews in my aforementioned quest (which should explain the rather old screening date above).

I have never been much of a John Waters fan - if even a fan at all.  Sure, I liked Hairspray (the original one!) and Cry Baby, and quite enjoyed Serial Mom (the filmmaker's best?) and even found moments to like in some of his earlier, trashier films (though these were more along the lines of their campy chutzpah than any actual cinematic prowess), but overall, I have never gone out of my way to find the guy.   I have never seen a trailer for his latest and squealed out in gleeful antici.......pation (which, btw, I have done with other filmmakers).

But lo and behold, there I was in my cinema (Midtown Cinema, Harrisburg PA, a 3-screen arthouse cinema run by my lovely wife and I - for those of you not in the know) watching Waters' 1972 film Pink Flamingos, and actually enjoying it - well, for what it was.   Starring Waters' mondo trasho heavyweight drag queen muse Divine, the film is a rugged little piece of crude pop trash, but moreso than ever before, I could see what Waters has been trying to do in his work.  Granted, it is a rather low brow thing, but a thing nonetheless.  Granted (again) this so-called thing never reaches the giddy heights of someone like Russ Meyer - or even Andy Warhol in something such as Chelsea Girls, but for Waters, I suppose it works for what it's worth.

Poorly written, poorly directed and (most of all) poorly acted by Waters' usual old troupe of non-thespians like Mink Stole and others, Pink Flamingos is nonetheless a fun film to watch in all its filthy, disgusting glory.  A film that takes whatever imaginary line that one crosses over in times of exceptional bad taste, and completely eradicates it from cinematic existence.  Even once the credits role and Divine proves her/his manhood/womanhood by eating dog shit on camera (unsimulated!?), I had to laugh out loud at its absurdity - and at its filthiness (which is a rather important part of the story - whatever story there may be).  

Being the story of two women (or one and a half?) who are fighting it out in the seedy suburbs of Waters' beloved Baltimore to be considered the filthiest person alive (a sort of twisted queer cinema rendition of a classic western!?), Pink Flamingos will surely never be mistaken for a great film - or even a good one.  What Pink Flamingos can be construed as being is a purposeful piece of filth that can ride along such other works as Jack Smith's Flaming Creatures or the films of Kenneth Anger (perhaps Waters' artistic alter ego) into a whole other cinema-free zone together.

Does this mean I am a John Waters fan now?  Probably not, but in my surprise at my enjoyment of  Pink Flamingos, I do have more respect for the director than I did before.  Oh okay, perhaps a bit of a fan - but don't tell anyone.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Kevyn,
Making the LAMb rounds, caught your site (nice) and wanted to chime in. You're on my RSS feeder so I catch your posts when they are fresh from the fryer so that's nice - then I have to find the time to read all the interesting stuff while posting on my own site while looking for a job, while trying to figure out what I'm going to do with the rest of my life. well, that being said, I agree mostly with your reaction to Walters. I had a friend who was obsessed with everything he did and forced me often at gun point (well, not really) to watch his films to which I wasn't very fond of but later, after thinking about his work and actually watching, listening, and reading interviews I came to a kind of appreciation for what he has done and what he was trying to do. That doesn't mean I'm a fan, far from it, but I can watch his films now and have a little fun while also thinking about what he's doing. It's tough at times. Divine is well, not so divine. Next time I'm in PA I'll have to find your theater. I have a film school buddy who grew up in your neck of the woods - I'll have to see if he heard of you/knows you/been there.

cheers and as always, feel free to come by and see me some time