Pink Flamingos (John Waters, 1972, USA)

  Pink Flamingos is the film which launched John Waters’ career, marking his first film in color and the first in his trilogy which came to be known as the “Trash Trilogy” – along with Female Trouble (1974) and Desperate Living (1977). Waters, who grew up in suburban Baltimore and even financed the film with a loan from his father, is nevertheless one of the finest chroniclers of American underclass life. 50 years after its initial release (upon which Variety labeled it “one of the most vile, stupid, and repulsive films ever made”), Pink Flamingos stands as an assault on good taste and still has the power to shock and entertain audiences. 

The film tells the story of a criminal family led by the infamous drag queen Divine, living in a trailer on the outskirts of Baltimore. When the papers label Divine the “filthiest person alive”, Divine’s rivals Connie and Raymond Marble try to one-up her. The plot, to the extent that it exists, mainly serves as an anchor for what could be described as various “filth” set pieces, including several notorious ones involving a chicken, incest, castration, and various other offenses designed to offend the hippies who made a large part of the film’s audience at the time. The film culminates in a scene with Divine that is perhaps as notorious as the movie itself. 

While Pink Flamingos is not good in any objective sense, it is still watchable. The amateurish quality of the production gives it a grit and grime that is befitting the filth portrayed onscreen, and the 50s soundtrack which accompanies it - drawn from Waters’ own record collection – gives a Kenneth Anger quality to some scenes. While the long, dialogue-filled takes inspired by Andy Warhol can be a bit much by today’s standards, Pink Flamingos is nevertheless deservedly a classic of underground cinema. 


8/10

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