By Jerome Reuter
John Waters is without a doubt a filmmaker who is completely unapologetic. His films are lewd, low brow, and offensive. As you might imagine, I absolutely love them. An Auteur with a taste for filth, sleaze, and everything the average person would refer to as distasteful. Waters is without a doubt, a cornerstone of the counter culture. His magnum opus is his 1972 exploitation/black comedy classic Pink Flamingos. Starring his muse, late drag legend Divine. The film itself has achieved legendary cult status, and for over 25 years has both captivated and reviled viewers.
What is it about this film ? Why are we obsessed with a film shot with grainy 16mm film stock? Why are we drawn into a story about someone trying to usurp someones title as the Filthiest person alive? Why is the soundtrack soundtrack composed almost entirely of hits that you might hear on a rerun of Happy Days? Is that REALLY dog shit she just ate?
(Trivia note: There are several moments during the film that the shadow from Waters’ camera are clearly visible.)
The answer is simple: We all secretly love to have our senses assaulted. We live to have our tastes pushed to the limits of what we find acceptable. We live to be shocked, appalled, or sickened. It’s all a part of the human experience, being taken out our comfort zone, and forced to be a part of something we might not enjoy. Thats one of the wonderful things about exploitation and horror. We’re forced to experience something that isn’t safe, and if you’re like me, you live for those moments as a part of the audience.
This film is all those things and more. Instead of a glamorous leading lady, we have Divine, a 300 pound drag queen. Waters pulls out all the stops in this one, from eating fecal matter, vomit and even performing incest. Somehow, all of these events are presented in way that makes them enjoyable to watch. It seems Waters decided to assault all of our visual senses, and our social morays with one film. I’ve always felt having a soundtrack made almost entirely of classic doo-wop is a slap in the face of the American nostalgia of the 1950’s. (Take that, American Graffiti.)
For me, this film isn’t just enjoyable. It’s the definitive American exploitation film. It’s unapologetic, and filthy without remorse. Also, if you like this one, You’ll LOVE his 1974 effort Female Trouble.