Thoughts On: Pink Flamingos - Video Nasty


Pink Flamingos - Video Nasty

Quick Thoughts: Pink Flamingos (1972)

Two groups of psychos butt heads over who is "The Filthiest Person Alive".

I recently watched Mardi Gras Massacre, a 'video nasty' from the late 70s. 'Video nasty' is a British term that basically describes what you may also define as exploitation movies. However, the key difference between video nasty movies and exploitation films is that video nasties got their release on video cassettes. And as the name suggests, these movies were intentionally disgusting, vulgar and violent - probably made with the goal of being banned. At the very top of this classification of movie is John Waters' Pink Flamingos.

I've tried to watch this film before, but it's so terribly made (in terms of acting, writing, direction, cinematography and so on) that I didn't even get 10 minutes in before dismissing it as a waste of time. But, as said, I recently watched Mardi Gras Massacre. After watching this film, I googled it and discovered that it fit into this category of film. And having sat through an hour and a half of boring shit, I thought I might as well try Pink Flamingos again... and so I did.

There's really not much you can say about this movie beyond trying to describe a few of the things that occur within. The most famous thing that happens in this movie is that Divine, our main character, eats actual dog shit. We also get live chickens thrust, very violently (I'm not sure if they die), in between a rape scene. Another nice sequence is watching a man's gaping asshole open and close like a goldfish's mouth.

I could go on, but I think we hit the main attractions. Is this all disgusting? Yep. Does it make sense? Not at all. Is the film of any worth? I don't know...

I do have to say that I enjoyed this quite a bit more than the other video nasties I've tried to watch. With films such as Cannibal Holocaust and I Spit On Your Grave, which I don't think I've yet gotten through, you have films that have a serious(ish) tone to them. Waters uses the idea of a video nasty in a somewhat playful manner. In such, he engages with his audience and deliberately makes a technically horrific movie. He juxtaposes overly written dialogue that is far too precise, verbose and descriptive, with the worst acting and some of the most ugly aesthetics that could only be beaten by someone like Von Trier.

This draws attention to the fact that we decided to watch this dumb movie, but then strives to give us what we came for - that being blood, tits, dick, shit, puke, cum and ass. And that makes parts of the script, the dialogue especially, quite funny. It's not that you're laughing with the film, or even at the film, much rather, yourself and the idea that this film exists. And I suppose that makes Pink Flamingos something tantamount to conceptual art.

In a famous review, Roger Ebert states that:

Note: I am not giving a star rating to “Pink Flamingos,” because stars simply seem not to apply. It should be considered not as a film but as a fact, or perhaps as an object.

This, in my books, means to align Pink Flamingos with films like Eat, Sleep, Empire and Wavelength. All of these are, as seen in a cinematic context, anti-film. But, as Snow and Warhol probably intended, these 'films' are better seen in a class of their own - as another form of art. This seems to be the essence of what Ebert means by not giving Pink Flamingos a rating; it's just something else. Because of the degree to which Waters confronts the traditional idea of cinema, I ultimately can't help but see his point.

But, to end things, I'll leave you with a few questions. Have you seen this movie? Is it a movie in your eyes? Do you think it has any worth? If so, what?

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