For a long time I never watched this movie because I had assumed that I had already seen it, recalling it as sort of mid-period glossier John Waters, in the vein of “Hairspray” or “Cry Baby” which were the sort of films I watched with my parents growing up. But no this is much different. It’s great, and at times appalling, but nonetheless always engaging.
Essentially this movie is a mix of a parody of sensationalism (both artistic and media driven), a mockery of bourgeoise outrage, and with unrelenting gratuitous grossness. There are at least three scenes in this movie in which something is depicted which I would honestly prefer that I had never seen: that anus trick, Divine explicitly going down on that dude, and that coda for which this film is so infamous.
Nevertheless I loved it. I can understand why this is regarded as John Waters’s masterpiece, though I still prefer “Desperate Living.” They have the same energy and the same sensibility, but “Desperate Living” lacks the disgustingness, though is just as committed to the same assault on bourgeoise attitudes, and with the same vivid dialogue.
An important point to make about Waters in general, and Pink Flamingos, in particular; what sets him apart is not the shocking and offensive material in and of itself, but the fact that it is not delivered with the grim seriousness of his contemporaries and so many others who have made movies in bad taste over the years. John Waters makes these films with an impish glee that somehow makes being disgusted almost delightful. It’s like Kurt Vonnegut drawing a picture of his own asshole with childish glee, but Waters shows you a real asshole and then he makes it do things you would never want to watch someone’s asshole do. Not as bad as goatse.cx but still. The dialogue, by the way, is amazing. Grade A.