Friday, February 24, 2006

Multiple Maniacs (1970)

Early John Waters feature is a static, overly talky affair that goes nowhere after its opening sequence. That opener, however, is pretty great, and it serves as a beautiful summation of the entire grindhouse genre. It introduces Lady Divine's Cavalcade of Perversion, where there are attractions like puke-eaters, pornographers, murderous junkies and even homosexuals! Kissing!! Full-on tongue kissing!!! (The lumping-in of homosexuals with the other, less savory characters in the Cavalcade is as camp-confrontational as Waters ever got.) Respectable people (read: squares) are admitted into the show, complaining about the filth yet unable to look away. Waters knows that's really us up there: We come to see the show even though we know it will offend us -- deep down, we kinda want to be offended, to be made to feel something extreme. Then, after we've seen all the nasty, sick things that Waters can throw at us, Lady Divine walks in and steals our money. Who hasn't felt that way after a grindhouse fleecing? No matter how hard the film tried, it wouldn't be able to top that beginning, but it's like John didn't even try. The plot falls completely apart, and then the filmmakers lose track of what it was they were trying to say so fuck it, bring on the lobster. There's a good scene in a church wherein Mink Stole uses rosary (anal) beads to teach Divine about the double meanings inherent in the words "ecstasy" and "passion," but even that goes on too long. Interesting from a historical perspective, but Waters would make stronger, funnier and more coherent films. Female Trouble is miles beyond this.

Grade: C


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