Running time: 93 mins
Director: John Waters
Starring: Divine, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pierce, Mink Stole
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Exploitation
“One of the most vile, stupid and repulsive films ever made” these are but three qualities of John Waters’ 1972 independent film shot on the streets of Baltimore and starring his band of friends and deviants.
criminal Divine sets out to destroy Connie and Raymond Marble who have taken up of the challenge of ousting Lady Divine from her tabloid adorned title of the “filthiest person alive”. In this war of standards there is no line that can’t or won’t be crossed in a big for victory. Baltimore
Anyone familiar with the works of John Waters, and by that it’s meant to read ‘pre Hairspray remake starring the awkwardly odd John Travolta’, will be aware of the faces in Pink Flamingos as it’s the same gang of deviant artists that portray the outlandish characters in most of Waters’ early work (Multiple Maniacs, Desperate Living and Female Trouble for example). They will also be aware of the cinematic style and the unconscious desire to push the boundaries of cinematic taste if for no other reason than they can. To the newcomer this is probably a good place to start before you dive into the sexual assault of Divine by a six foot lobster named Lobstora (Multiple Maniacs) as it’s relatively unsurreal in a way that other offerings are.
The cinematography of the film is shaky and the editing rough but this is due to the technology available at the time, Waters is an accomplished and masterful film maker and even in the early days had an amazing eye for what he wanted and how he was going to piece it all together. These slight blemishes (if you would call them that, may of us wouldn’t) simply add to the quality and character of the film. In France these imperfections would be called Nouvelle Vague, in Italy labeled Neo-realism and would ultimately be seen as Dogma cinema from the likes of Von Trier so why shouldn’t they be revered in an American director making films outside of the Hollywood structure for the sake of making films? The soundtrack is excellent, rude, confrontational and schizophrenic. Waters’ understanding of how to manipulate the incompatibility of audio and visual is masterful and an early example of what directors like Stanley Kubrick (A Clockwork Orange) instinctively knew would push the audience to interact with the film rather than simply allow their emotions to be played with by the marriage of sight and sound.
The script has one set up, some character development but mainly punctuated with hilarious and possibly drug dialogue and set pieces. There’s too many to go through them all but a couple worth highlighting is the man servant of Connie and Raymond Marble dressing up in his mistresses clothes and re-enacting a conversation he has overheard and Divine & son Crackers breaking into the Marble’s house before licking all the furniture and have sexual relations driving the furniture to reject the Marbles from sitting on it when they return. Likewise there is some insanely brilliant dialogue delivered with such bravado from the performers that it’s difficult to decipher what is scripted and what has been improvised on the day. Either way is instantly memorable and verging on genius.
Pink Flamingos is more certainly not for the faint hearted, those turned by the sight of feces or chickens but if you’re of an adventurous nature you will not find a film that’s more entertaining, challenging or big in the heart department. It stands the test of time as a bona-fide classic and a guardian of all that’s great about independent cinema. “Burn everything, legalize cannibalism, eat shit!”