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Divine Trash

      These days, John Waters is probably the nicest living being in show business, and why hasn't he up for the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award? However, in this ambitious 70s time capsule, back to the delirious, dog-shit-eating-days of Pink Flamingos, it's comforting nostalgia to see Waters as a stringy-haired 25-year-old behind impossibly haughty shades and with a Dylan-in-Don't Look Back sneariness. Those who don't know early Waters might do better by a night of prime videos, with Multiple Maniacs, Female Trouble, and Desperate Living also among the must-sees. But for long-time Watersites, Steve Yeager's Divine Trash is mondo paradisio.

     Waters discussing his movie-making is expectedly charming and ever-amusing, but what unexpected do you get? Shots from Waters's never-shown early short, The Diane Linkletter Story, and from the never-completed (actually, barely started) Dorothy, Kansas City Pothead. Interviews with Divine's kindly mom, Mrs. Milstead, and with Waters's arrow-straight, camera-shy parents, who seem to have stepped out of a 1920s Sinclair Lewis novel. A visit with Boston's merry booker, George Mansour, the first to dare screen Pink Flamingos, in a Combat Zone gay moviehouse. Best of all, a zany interview with America's last censor, Mary Avara, who fought to keep Waters's filthy films out of Maryland theatres. Still unrepentant, still grossed-out after all these years, praying on screen to "Lord Jesus, to give me strength," Avara is so over the top, so Lana Turner-campy, that she's turned - hallelujah! - into a full-fledged John Waters screen character.

GERALD PEARY
(May, 2000)

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