(Originally written July 7, 2009)
Disclaimer: Includes descriptions of vulgar happenings in this movie. Although I reveal some of what happens in the film, I guarantee the movie will not be any less shocking if you ever decide to watch it.
Coming home from my second viewing of Up, I was on a movie high, exhilarated by the emotional power of its images and sound. I needed to watch something else that night to satisfy my cinematic thirst, but I wanted to watch something different. After having wanted to do so for quite some time, I finally sat down and watched John Waters’ Pink Flamingos. Never have I experienced such a jarring shift in my movie-watching life.
I never really took all the critics and film buffs seriously when they said this is the filthiest movie ever made. Never have I been an offended and disgusted by a movie yet so strangely entertained. Waters lives up to his reputation as a maverick, the king of bad taste. The premise of the film is simple. The large female impersonator Divine plays Babs Johnson, renowned by everyone as the filthiest person alive, but this does not sit well with Connie and Raymond Marble. The filthy couple makes a living taking women off the street, holding them in a basement, either raping or artificially inseminating them and then selling the babies to lesbian couples. Connie and Raymond want to disrupt the peace of Babs’s family, which includes a retarded mother who lives in a crib and loves her eggs. Ultimately, total war breaks out between the two families as they seek out who is truly the filthiest family alive.
A plot synopsis does not make this movie sound so bad, but I cannot stress enough that the film is not for those who are easily offended. This work of art truly defies all convention, apparently having no purpose but to shock the audience. There is a sex scene involving the death of a chicken, a singing butthole and, perhaps more disgusting than anything else in the movie, the actual consumption of dog feces. With the animal cruelty and obscenity laws of today, Pink Flamingos probably could not have been made. Waters truly made a work that was ahead of its time. While Up had played with my emotions a few hours earlier as a reminder of human goodness, Pink Flamingos defecated on all notions of decency I have ever been taught to the point of almost making me physically sick at times. It is a rough trip, shot in an amateur fashion, made by great entertainers and not by great filmmakers. Does that make this movie that makes Borat look like The Sound of Music any less brilliant? Of course not. This movie is an unforgettable experience even if I cannot recommend it to anyone without a clear conscience.