You can spot them in the lobby picking the contraband candy from their bags, nervously pecking about on the lookout for others like them.
What is most disarming about going to a place like this (a classic, almost gothic theatre in the middle of Downtown London) at a time like this (6:30 pm on a Thursday) for a film like this is this group of could be lawyers or teachers or parents have turned their freak on. This is not a film for the faint of heart.
In this particularly random Pink Flamingos screening, a celebration of uncut, unfiltered films for those that fully embrace the weird in our world and contraband society, the old wave is looking for the new wave. The old weird is looking for the new weird to appreciate the legacy of American trash that even across the pond is both dark and humorous.
John Waters and his film “Pink Flamingos” digs into the romanticism of back alley America, past the Macys Day Parade and the dive bar into downtown Baltimore in the 1970s. You are supposed to respect the characters that are downright socially unacceptable. You are supposed to enjoy their socially unfathomable behavior.
To summarize the plot, an underground criminal, played by Divine, goes up against a sleazy couple who make an attempt to seize her title of “The Filthiest Person Alive.” Divine is a bulbous drag queen with a dangerous mermaid skirt and eyebrows that could double as boomerangs. The film is about a competition for the crown of sleaze and filth. The camp is palpable throughout. What she does specifically to retain her crown is downright legendary.
That’s what makes it fun and also intensely disturbing. That’s what keeps bringing people into a screening like this because they want to be shocked the same way people want to be scared.
There’s a fifty-year-old couple holding hands with the biggest popcorn tub you can buy.
There’s a twenty-five-year old by himself or perhaps waiting for a friend. He’s drinking a soda he brought in from outside. His eyes dart over to the two girls in their twenties across the waiting room. One is wearing a John Waters t-shirt, the other looks much less amused.
There are legitimate soccer mom types mixing with grandmas with pink hair, couples ready to neck and preteens looking for an outlet for their weird to go.
Will John Waters be their outlet?
For the older people in this audience, Waters is already theirs. Grandmas and grandpas in large leather jackets and spiked shoes are excited to be among here, to welcome the new generation whose skin and stomachs are ironclad. They’re happy the new wave is there for the first time. But if you’re going to pass on the weird torch you should probably test them to ensure their loyalty
The test would be sitting through this film and actually enjoying it. What Waters presents is beautifully gaudy filmmaking. It is intense and if you can make it through and enjoy it then yes, welcome to the world of weird.
Into the theatre people take their seats, bringing out their ciders and beers from their bags, still munching on those starbursts and skittles. People look at one another trying to see who else is coming in, who else is like them so far away from Baltimore; one man actually is. He’s beyond American with a jean jacket and a baseball cap, by himself and loving it. I heard his accent at the ticket booth and Baltimore had apparently made it to London. Along with this crew of mismatched folks, he’s having a reunion with his town.
There’s a common giggle in the room as the lights dim. The film starts and there’s laughter and shifting. There’s the normal uncomfortability that happens in this film. The language is rough, the storyline kind of sort of nonexistent. There’s weird sex and kinkiness adults find it hard to enjoy. Then there’s the uncomfortability with the shit. Human shit. Human shit and it’s being eaten by a drag queen. There are no cuts but a single shot of a dog dropping his doody and Divine the drag queen digging in.
It’s what everyone came here for but some aren’t ready to accept the weirdness. There’s the “ewwwws” and the “ughhhhhs” and the “fuckkkkkkkks” and then there’s the awe of the twelve-ish-year-old behind me laughing uncontrollably.
Welcome to the world of weird, kid.