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Critics reviews
Multiple Maniacs
John Waters United States, 1970
Time-warping to the horrors of the present, Waters’s characters couldn’t be “cured” by even the most extreme bout of conversion therapy. They revel in whatever makes them evil with a flair that’s at once heroic and heartwarming. LSD inspired the lobster attack, but the greatest high comes when Divine beholds herself in the mirror and snarls, "I love your sickness!
April 04, 2017
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More scandalous than the [carnival] activities themselves is the fact that the freaks are enjoying themselves so damn much. Something similar could be said about Multiple Maniacs itself: as well as being a scorching blast of proto-punk rebellion and a sophisticated mélange of eclectic formal influences, it’s a gleefully slapdash exercise in doing what feels good.
March 31, 2017
A monster movie for people who would rather watch a comedy. It’s gross. It has sensational sex. And in a bravura performance as the story’s maniac in chief, the drag actor known as Divine becomes the most unusual leading lady in cinema right before our eyes.
March 21, 2017
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Less offensive than it is a joyfully abusive joke about offensiveness, Multiple Maniacs feels not so much like a real movie as, adorably, a clutch of delinquent kids playing at making a movie, crafting a therefore crucially ironic “transgression” in the heady days of self-conscious film culture. It’s reportedly still Waters’s fave, and its snotty handmade charm is predictably ramped up by a factor of infinity via the beloved director’s hilariously bemused, memoir-like commentary track.
March 03, 2017
It was received with riotous laughs from the audience. The person in front of me filmed the infamous lobster rape scene on snapchat and sent it to all their friends. It was a fitting end to a strange but stunning festival.
December 14, 2016
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It is in some respects Waters’ strongest film—a comic counter-culture travesty, inspired in part by the Manson Family, launched from within the counter-culture and starring his portly gender-blur Divine.
August 06, 2016
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For all its ostensible unpleasantness, Multiple Maniacs is cheapo, indie, queer American cinema at its most adversarial and thrillingly vicious. In its violence, perversion and utter truculence, it’s an exhilarating, darkly funny and strangely timely reminder of a moment when queer cinema, like queerness itself, was still a deviant and dangerous form – crackling with revolutionary potential, and seemingly un-commodifiable.
August 05, 2016
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This is camp in the highest order: not merely the weird bravado and melodrama of American Horror Story, but the act of embracing the lowest culture, the filthiest, ugliest things and bending them to become weaponized against the gatekeepers of proper “social order”. The performances, the textures (“Like a bad Cassavetes film,” quips Waters), the very artifice of Multiple Maniacs and John Waters’s incendiary camp serves to offend the arbiters of marginalization.
August 03, 2016
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The movie doesn’t qualify as “good” in any conventional sense—it’s poorly shot (Waters sometimes has difficulty just keeping actors in the frame when he has to shift the camera back and forth during a conversation), features semi-improvised dialogue that’s often tediously repetitive (Divine, especially, does a lot of flailing when she runs out of script), and fails to tell any sort of coherent story. But such criticisms are largely irrelevant in the face of Maniacs’ cheerful insanity.
August 03, 2016
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The politics of personal sexual preference underscore nearly every scene of Multiple Maniacs, perhaps writer-director John Waters’s most audacious and demented rebuke to both the supposed pleasantries of bourgeois life and the lie of a progressive politics predicated on complacency.
August 01, 2016
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Waters has said he wanted Multiple Maniacs to look like a bad John Cassavetes film, which is a cute and John Waters–y thing to say, but it doesn’t really do justice to the ambition of this thing — to its delirious overload of symbols and genres and indignities.
July 27, 2016
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Call me all sorts of names, but the film — a black-and-white, underground romp about a carnival of perverts, the Infant of Prague, and a raping lobster — is hilarious, bracingly original, and full of auteurist textures. Long before outrageous movie comedy became a stock-in-trade, Waters did it best, with a subversive glee that turned expectations on their head while simultaneously mocking deviants and the prudes who loathe them.
July 27, 2016
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The Dalinian inspiration culminates as the enormous lobster crawls into Divine’s corpse-strewn room to have its way with her — the foamy mess left behind meets the camera’s eye and cackles, the rest proceeds like the first Night of the Living Dead, that other great incineration of what we now call the Sixties.
September 25, 2010
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Hippies and revolutionaries are ridiculed along with straights, and downtown Baltimore has probably never looked so depraved.
July 01, 1994
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