Tag Archives: BOOM!

The happy insanity of John Waters

Last year I decided to mark 9 November with a new holiday Trashaday, in honour of the granddaddy of trash, Mr. John Waters. On this date, I had the pleasure of attending a screening of possibly the worst ever art house film ever made, BOOM!  A film adaptation of a play by Tennessee Williams. This cinematic treat for the eye stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, camping it up on a desolate island. The screening was part of the internationally acclaimed festival Homotopia and was followed by a question and answer masterclass with the director of trash classics, Hairspray, Pink Flamingos and Cecil B. Demented.

I vowed on that day to celebrate the work of this cult genius on a yearly basis and call the day Trashaday. I contemplated hosting a bad taste beauty pageant here in Liverpool this year. A distinctive award for ‘Scally/Scouse girl of the year’ would see girls with hair in curlers, eyelashes like tree branches, layered with mascara and orange face foundation – that would look more fitting on an Oompa Loompa – compete for a trophy. I could also screen one of the many bad taste films in Waters’ back catalogue. Although I would draw the line at recreating the infamous dog poop scene in Pink Flamingos.

Finally I decided to start the day by watching a most disturbing self-help film presented by Dame Angela Lansbury. This may be the stuff of nightmares but it is rich in trash.

I then chose to try to get into the man’s head by dipping into his latest book Carsick. I had read and enjoyed his previous zany scribblings, Role Models and Crackpot. His recent work chronicles a hitchhike from Baltimore to San Francisco. You see the world through the creative insane perspective of JW. A journey into the sublime, with a cast of characters, straight from his screenscape, filthy, trashy, kooky individuals.

CarsickI decided to accompany our hero on his odyssey from the safety of my reading chair. I felt the pain of being stuck hitchhiking in torrential rain, despite knowing that I was only a few seconds away from a strong cup of black coffee.

Carsick-not-psychoHe treks armed with a sign made out of a piece of cardboard with his destination emblazoned and on the reverse,

I’m not psycho

His descriptions of his hike are darkly comic and some of the simplicity in the writing is effective, the heat of the sun is described as ‘the ball of hell’. There is an undercurrent of social satire, railing against the modern world, in all its commercial, fast-paced humdrum sameness. A standout favourite for me was his participation in a modern-day freak show, an alternative cirque du soleil, as a man without tattoos. Before the show, he is petrified at getting naked in his sixties and is advised,

The audience won’t be criticizing your body-they will just be amazed to see you don’t have tattoos in this day and age. You’ll be a triumph.

He also encounters a female sex-fiend desperate to make love to him,

It’s a little late in my life to come in.

Waters is an avid reader, a self-confessed bibliophile. Whilst reading this odyssey I found myself empathising with the comments he made in last year’s lecture,

It wasn’t until I started reading and found books they wouldn’t let us read in school that I discovered you could be insane and happy and have a good life without being like everybody else.

I recommend this book to all those people who yearn to be insane and happy. It is essential reading!

Leave a comment

Filed under The Golden Country

Trashaday

John meets John, as guest writer Mr Maguire meets director Mr Waters in Liverpool…

Let Saturday 9th November be now known as TRASHADAY, for this year, I had the pleasure of spending a wintry Saturday afternoon in the company of a cinematic master, Mr John Waters.

john waters

Waters was in the ‘Pool of Life’ for a series of events (part of the internationally renowned homotopia). The masterclass took place in the Sci-fi-esque environs of LJMU Screen Schools, Redmond Building.

Waters has often past praised fellow creative Mr Tennessee Williams, another champion of the outsider. Quite fittingly, the class began with a screening of BOOM!, (an adaptation of a Williams play, The Milk Float Doesn’t Stop Here) so, so bad it’s good, a visual camp treat, full of lines of genius,

Hot sun, cool breeze, white horse on the sea, and a big shot of vitamin B in me!

BOOM! starred Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, (think Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and add copious vices and addiction); pictures like Cleopatra, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  and The Taming of the Shrew, may highlight the majesty of the chemistry between the toxic lovers, BOOM! illustrates how terribly they are also capable of acting.

boom

The kind of movie that simply would not get made today, in a cinematic environment that lives and is terminated by test screenings, there is no way that a studio would ‘get’ this unique B movie-esque work.

Waters revealed how the film was produced in collaboration with the poison that is alcohol and ALL on set were in some stage of inebriation during the working day, if not downright capernoited.

Looking through the telescope now, back at this feature, the film has a postmodern trashy edge that does in fact work. Intentional or fluke, genius or rebuke? We will never know.

After the screening Waters took questions and answers from an enthusiastic audience. He answered with a cool poise and at no time got snarky with the audience interactions.

The Dickens of alternative cinema spoke candidly about his work, portraits of trailer trash outsiders, freaks, individuals with a whole arsenal of eccentricities, characters with a capital ‘C’. There is no such thing as normal only peeps you don’t really know so well and John Waters’ cinematic treats remind us of this completely.

A catalogue of oeuvre packed with witty writing and twisted plots. Taking quirky oddities and making them positive attributes. Waters brought to the world’s attention Divine, another champion of the underdog, transformed from an overweight suburban geek into a creature of glamorous brilliance.

divine

Allegedly the inspiration behind Ursula from Disney’s The Little Mermaid. I am still haunted by the sight of Divine proudly singing You Think You’re A Man But You’re Only A Boy on Top of the Pops.

The afternoon gave an insight into the mind of an individual craftsman of creativity. A man gifted with an inventive imagination that can be expressed as surreal mayhem.

There is a Bowie song called All the Madmen and the lyrics recant how the narrator would rather stay here with all the madmen then perish with the sad men roaming free. When watching a film by this creative force, I would rather be with the circus of Waters’ disciples of trash, be a part of the insanity than not.

1 Comment

Filed under The Golden Country