“I believe life is nothing if you’re not obsessed. I only think terrible thoughts, I do not live them. Thank God I am not my films. If audiences can laugh at my twisted ideas, what’s the great harm? I had a goal in life — I wanted to make the trashiest motion pictures in cinema history. Thanks so much for allowing me to get away with it.”
As many of you devoted juvenile deliquents might be aware, the proverbial Pope of Trash (so-coined by one William S Burroughs) is leaving Baltimore for the next best saturation of suburbanality, yep, here in our very own land of Oz. The Pope’s visit is a much anticipated one as attendees can expect to hear about his influences, fascination with true crime, his own films and much more to do with THIS FILTHY WORLD in which we live.
Drawing on some of the content from his most recent book, Role Models, Waters will be touring the country, bringing his vaudevillian content to Perth, Canberra, Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney and of course, Melbourne. His Melbourne tour takes place on Saturday October 29 at the Melbourne Recital Centre.
The Retrospective Line-up:
Here at the Astor, we thought such an incredible opportunity to see the Pope in person warranted a pre-tour theatrical return of at least some of his impressive, exploitative, and hilarious oeuvre. So, we’ve put together, for your viewing pleasure, an entire weekend of the most tasteful cinematic trash we could find! If however you don’t so happen to live in Melbourne, fret not, there are similar opportunities in Adelaide and Sydney thanks to Adele Hann (Adelaide Film Festival) and Maggie Gerrand (MG Presents). If you’re in Adelaide, head to the Mercury Cinema and if you’re in Sydney, head to the Opera House to catch their Double Features From Hell film festival. But back to what’s here in Melbourne at Australia’s iconic, last standing, single screen, repertory cinema, THE ASTOR THEATRE.
FRIDAY OCTOBER 14, 7.30pm: FEMALE TROUBLE & POLYESTER double feature.
Female Trouble (1974), 35mm print, rated R, 95 mins: One of the things we should all be worried about is juvenile delinquency. When Dawn Davenport (Divine) doesn’t get the cha-cha heels she wanted for Christmas, she assaults her mother, runs away from home, becomes a single mother to a child born of rape, and flits between go-go dancer, model, petty criminal and murderer as she becomes a beauty experiment at the Lipstick Beauty Salon. Here, owners Donald and Donna Dasher (David Lochary and Mary Vivian Pearce) test Jean Genet’s theory that crime equals beauty. Then there are humans kept in bird cages, fatal facial peels, the injecting of liquid eyeliner… Undoubtedly one of the most hilarious examinations of reactionary social politics ever made, this early Waters work is riotous good fun and quite sincerely questions the perils of a celebrity culture before it was even really considered a thing.
Polyester (1981), 35mm print, rated M, 86 mins: The first film to bring Odorama (or Smell-o-vision) to the big screen, Polyester marks Waters’ move from the underground into the mainstream – well, the subversive underground mainstream anyway. Divine dons her finest in suburban housewife get-up in her too wonderful for words performance as the picture of middle American moms. Making fun of all-American, heteronormative family values, Waters exposes the artifice of such stifling societal constructs with unmatched hilarity and sass. As synthetic as the title suggests, Polyester unearths everything that is ugly about being “normal” and “average” in the most stupendously kitsch, camp and endearing way.
SATURDAY OCTOBER 15, 7.30pm: PINK FLAMINGOS & A DIRTY SHAME double feature.
Pink Flamingos (1972), 35mm print, rated R, 110 mins: This is the film with that famous scene that still has people looking up the term “coprophagia”. If you don’t know what that means then don’t blame us when you find out! Divine stars alongside or perhaps against Raymond and Connie Marble (David Lochary and Mink Stole) in an incredible underground tabloid like pageant for the trashy sought after title of “The Filthiest Person Alive”. This is one of THE defining films of American Underground cinema and the most iconic of Waters’ work that helped him win the title “Pope of Trash”.
A Dirty Shame (2004), 35mm print, rated R, 89 mins: You’re either a neuter or a pervert in this much later release in Waters’ filmography. Neuters are residents in Harford Road who can’t stand carnal knowledge and consider anyone who can a pervert. But when a series of concussions befall some of Harford Road’s neuters, a fully-fledged sex crazed soft-core public parade of shame ensues. There is also a rather ambitious search to discover the ultimate sex act. Possibly the most ludicrous story included in our mini fest, your response to A Dirty Shame will undoubtedly indicate to which of the two camps you belong!
SUNDAY OCTOBER 16, 2pm: HAIRSPRAY single feature, 5pm: CRY-BABY single feature, and 8pm: DIVINE TRASH single feature.
Hairspray (1988), digital presentation, rated PG, 90 mins: Now a major Broadway musical and remade for the masses, the most mainstream of all of Waters’ films, and the only one that is truly “family friendly”, Hairspray is all about counter culture in the ’60s and the increasing efforts of the most unlikely souls to out the upper classes for their negative views towards progressive issues such as racial integration, as well, of course, as being all about youths enjoying themselves and wearing their hair however they darn well please.
Cry-Baby (1990), digital presentation, rated M, 85 mins: Wade “Cry Baby” Walker is a sworn Drape (Greaser) and Allison Vernon-Williams a model Square. So when the unlikely two fall in love the entire town of Baltimore is thrown into an immediate state of uproar. Sound familiar? That’s because Cry-Baby is a parody that focuses its attentions on hit teen musical Grease. Another of Waters’ films to find its adapted way to Broadway, Cry-Baby is commercial counter-culture at its best. Only Waters could have so fantastic a flirtation with wholesome family fun whilst blatantly stating that there’s nothing more disgusting than wholesome family fun.
Divine Trash (1998), digital presentation, rated R, 97 mins: Could there be a more perfect title for a documentary about John Waters? Quite simply, no. Yeager’s documentary intercuts interviews and stock footage to celebrate and examine his incredible and controversial work. Divine Trash will be introduced by comedy film duo Lee Zachariah and Shannon Marinko, hosts of The Bazura Project, ABC 2′s newest six-part comedy, entertainment series about Australia’s number one, non sports-related past time: the movies. (Coming to ABC 2 Thursday September 29, 9pm. Watch their opening title sequence here.)
* NB: each session will also feature a welcome video recording by John Waters!
Friday October 14: Check under your seat to see if you’ve won a copy of John Waters’ latest book Role Models.
Saturday October 15: DIVINE look-a-like contest. The best Divine in the house will win a double pass to see John Waters live at the Melbourne Recital Centre on Saturday October 29. Special prizes for second and third place.
Sunday October 16: During our special intro to Steven Yeager’s documentary Divine Trash, with The Bazura Project hosts Lee Zachariah and Shannon Marinko, we’ll be giving away ANOTHER double pass to see John Waters live at the Melbourne Recital Centre, Saturday October 29. So brush up on your Waters’ trivia!
A wicked Waters weekend. Be there or be square. Ewwwww.
Written by Tara Judah for The Astor Theatre. The Astor Theatre would like to thank Maggie Gerrand, The Adelaide Film Festival, The Mercury Cinema, The Arc Cinema, Roadshow Entertainment, Hollywood Classics, Yaman Films, ABC 2 and The Bazura Project.