Pink Flamingos (1972)

Dir. John Waters
Starring: Divine, etc.

I guess I would recommend this to Penny and perhaps Mitchell, with some caution. I definitely wouldn’t recommend this to Joel, Jill and Don. (Larri didn’t watch all of it, but hated whatever she saw.) This is not my type of film, and to say that I liked the film might be a bit of stretch, but there is a lot I liked about it, and I think, objectively, has some good things going for it. It’s a deserving choice for the 1001 book.

Divine–crowned the “filthiest person alive” by a tabloid–has taken an alias (Babs Johnson) and is hiding out in the woods, living in a trailer with her mother, Edie (Edith Massey) and her son, Crackers (Danny Mills). Unbeknownst to Divine, Raymond (David Lochary) and Connie (Mink Stole) Marble are appalled that Divine has won the “filthiest person” title and set out to ruin her.

Some of my favorite musicians are those who don’t confine their music making to existing musical categories. This freedom allows their music to go beyond genres and often lead to something new and exciting. That’s one of the most refreshing things about John Waters’ Pink Flamingos. When watching the film, you get a sense of someone free from categories and conventional mores–some people may say that is not a good thing, especially the results on the screen, but I found this freedom super refreshing. Plus, the movie is not meant to be taken seriously. The film blends elements of horror, pornography and comedy in a way that I haven’t really seen. One of my favorite scenes was the one where the police close in on Divine and her guests at a party. Divine and her guest begin to attack the police and then proceed to eat them! The way Waters shoots the scene created a sense of Marx Brothers and George Romero. And the subject matter is hardly conventional either. The whole plot revolving around two parties fighting over the title of the “filthiest person alive” is not only bizarre, but pretty funny, too. Waters shows us a totally different world (at least to most filmgoers), and he takes us on a pretty fun ride. Well, if you can stomach gross out scenes, bad acting, writing and filmmaking.

All in all, this is not my type of film. The acting and film techniques are amateurish, and I’m not into the trashy subject matter. (The movie is kind of funny, and could get funnier for me over time.) Still, I can’t deny the creativity and spirit behind the film. It’s definitely the best trash film I’ve seen.

While I mentioned that I haven’t seen another film like it, the film does remind me of Mario Van Peebles’ Sweet Sweetback’s Badaasssss Song. Both of the films are raw and b-quality, but they free from the rules of conventional filmmaking. It’s the opposite of the cookie cutter spirit behind many of Hollywood’s films. The film also reminded me of Tom Browning’s Freaks, the film about and played by real life circus “freaks.” The opening scene with Edie, Divine’s mother, sitting in a baby playpen asking for eggs made me thing of that film. (Edie later falling in love with the Eggman was deliciously dada.)

Edie is weird and interesting, but Divine has to be one of the most interesting characters on film. He’s gross, violent and over-the-top. He’s a force of nature, which reminded me of Michel Simon in Boudu Saved from Drowning.

The infamous last scene in the film was gross, but it’s not the grossest I’ve seen.

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