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Posted by on 8.5.2014





New York, NY (July 23, 2014) – The Film Society of Lincoln Center announced today “Fifty Years of John Waters: How Much Can You Take?” to take place on September 5-14. The complete retrospective, the legendary filmmaker’s first in the United States, will include all twelve of Waters’s features, including Pink Flamingos, Polyester, Hairspray, Serial Mom, and his first two, Mondo Trasho and Multiple Maniacs, which introduced the world to his beloved, iconic muse Divine (Harris Glenn Milstead). The series will kick off with a special opening night presentation of Female Trouble followed by a discussion with John Waters and critic J. Hoberman. That same evening, Waters will introduce Serial Mom.

Later in the series, scratch-and-sniff Odorama cards will be distributed prior to the screening of Polyester so audiences can smell what they see on screen. The program also includes rare early shorts Eat Your Makeup, Hag in a Black Leather Jacket, and Roman Candles, presented for free in the Film Center Amphitheater. A special “Celluloid Atrocity Night!” will showcase rare 16mm prints of Waters’s first two features, Mondo Trasho and Multiple Maniacs, along with early short The Diane Linkletter Story, and will include a conversation between critic Dennis Dermody and the director. A special sidebar programmed by Waters includes a wide range of films, from British domestic melodramas to Hollywood horror franchises, that, in his words, “I’m jealous I didn’t make.”

“A lifelong provocateur and by now a national treasure, John Waters is a singular, even prophetic figure within not only American cinema but also the broader landscape of American popular culture,” said Dennis Lim, the Film Society’s Director of Programming. “From his early underground sensations to his subversive work within the mainstream, no filmmaker has done as much to blur and challenge the distinctions between high and low culture, and between good and bad taste. To mark the 50th anniversary of his first film, the short Hag in a Black Leather Jacket — made when he was only 18 — we are very proud to present this complete retrospective of his work, and also to have John, a world-class cinephile, curate a sidebar of films he wishes he’d made.”

John Waters said: “Are you kidding?  I’m beyond excited!  It took me fifty years to claw my way up from the cinematic gutters of Baltimore to Lincoln Center.  Finally I’m filthy and respectable!”


In his 50-year career, Waters has created one of the most influential and beloved bodies of work in all of American cinema. His first six features are enduring staples of the midnight-movie circuit: maniacal exercises in high-camp shock humor, each with the emotional pitch of an opera and content that wouldn’t be out of place in a psychological text on sexual fetishes. Roger Ebert famously gave Pink Flamingos (in which its star Divine ate actual dog poop) “zero stars,” exclaiming in his review, "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." Fitting, considering that Waters himself once said, “If someone vomits, it’s like a standing ovation.”

His next six, made with bigger budgets and more well-known stars, find Waters refining his style and burrowing deeper into his favorite film genres, but they unmistakably represent attempts to subvert Hollywood from within. (The crossover success of one of these movies, Hairspray, went on to inspire both a Tony Award winning hit Broadway musical and a film remake of the musical.) Waters is also an accomplished writer and photographer; his recent New York Times best-selling book, Carsick, chronicles his solo hitchhiking adventure across the country.

Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland in 1946, Waters honed his eye for the bizarre, beautiful, and eccentric through films like The Wizard of Oz, The Tingler, and Mom and Dad. Additionally, he cites Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, Russ Meyer, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and Andy Warhol as key influences. He started shooting 8mm and 16mm shorts in the 1960s with a band of local friends in the Baltimore suburbs, and his films of the 1970s and 1980s featured a troupe of actors known as the Dreamlanders, which included David Lochary, Mink Stole, Mary Vivian Pearce, Edith Massey, and most famously, the immortal Divine. As he graduated to bigger budgets, his repertory grew to include the diverse likes of Tab Hunter, Patty Hearst, and Traci Lords, alongside Hollywood stars like Johnny Depp, Stephen Dorff, Kathleen Turner, Melanie Griffith, Tracey Ullman, Sam Waterston, and Johnny Knoxville.

On top of their oft-discussed self-conscious irony and thematic obsessions (sex, celebrity, social exclusion), Waters’s movies are also odes to the rhythm and texture of life in Baltimore and improbably tender visions of domestic communities held together by their own unsentimental, idiosyncratic forms of affection. One of the characters in Multiple Maniacs, turning to his current object of desire, perhaps best sums up the spirit of Waters’s life and work: “I love you so fucking much I could shit.”

Tickets will go on sale Thursday, August 14. Single screening tickets are $13; $9 for students and seniors (62+); and $8 for Film Society members, including opening night’s presentations. Tickets for "Celluloid Atrocity Night" are $25; $20 for students, seniors (62+), and Film Society members. See more and pay less with a discount package starting at $30; $24 for students and seniors (62+); and $21 for Film Society members. With an All Access Pass, see all the films in the series and attend "Celluloid Atrocity Night" for only $99! Note: The discount package prices apply with the purchase of tickets to three films or more, with the exclusion of "Celluloid Atrocity Night." The All Access Pass is available for purchase exclusively online. The Shorts Program is Free & open to the public: Complimentary tickets will be distributed from Elinor Bunin Munroe box office starting one hour before the screening on September 11. Limit one ticket per person, on a space available basis. Please note that the line for tickets may form in advance of the time of distribution. Visit www.filmlinc.com for complete film festival information.

Film Society's New Wave (patrons under 40) are hosting the opening night celebration to Fifty Years of John Waters: How Much Can You Take?. New Wave members receive year-round invitations to preview screenings, exclusive parties, and special events with artists and industry professionals. Their financial support enables the Film Society of Lincoln Center to secure its place as the premier destination of independent and world cinema. To learn more about New Wave, email newwave@filmlinc.com or visit http://www.filmlinc.com/support/new-wave-program


Female Trouble
John Waters, USA, 1974, 35mm, 89m

Waters’s hysterical, full-throated assault on celebrity culture pivots on an unforgettable performance by Divine as Dawn Davenport, a runaway teen who falls into a life of petty thievery only to becomes a media icon with the help of a pair of sexually repressed, upper-crust hairdressers. Divine called Female Trouble his favorite of his own films, and it’s not hard to see why: everything about the film, from the theme song down, is marked by his electric, gender-defying presence. (He also plays the male truck driver who, in one of the movie’s most grotesque scenes, knocks Dawn up.) But it’s the couple, played by David Lochary (“we rarely eat any form of noodle”) and Mary Vivian Pearce (“spare me your anatomy”), who become both the chief targets of Waters’s satire and, with their theory of beauty’s relationship to transgression and crime, improbable mouthpieces for his filmmaking philosophy. With memorable turns by Mink Stole as Dawn’s ill-fated daughter and Edith Massey as their hot-blooded next-door neighbor.
September 5, 6:30pm (discussion with John Waters and critic J. Hoberman)
September 10, 9:00pm

Cecil B. Demented
John Waters, USA, 2000, 35mm, 87m

“We ain’t got no budget,” goes a line in the tongue-in-cheek hip-hop theme song to Waters’s freewheeling attack on the Hollywood star system. Stephen Dorff and Melanie Griffith star as, respectively, the leader of a guerrilla band of horny misfit filmmakers (the Sprocket Holes), and the A-list Hollywood star they kidnap and coerce, Patty Hearst–style, into a string of terrorist activities. (Hearst, in fact, had a cameo in the film, her fourth for Waters.) With its movie premiere abduction scene, its passages of show biz mayhem, and its bloody penultimate sequence—a shootout on the set of a Forrest Gump sequel—Cecil B. Demented is Waters’s most extreme and sustained attempt to bite the hand that once fed him.
September 12, 7:00pm (discussion with John Waters)

John Waters, USA, 1990, 35mm, 85m

Johnny Depp—already a teen icon for playing the lead on TV’s 21 Jump Street—appears as the titular bad-boy hero of Waters’s raucous, exuberant salute to the teen rock ’n’ roll films of the 1950s. What Hairspray had done for the message movie, Cry-Baby did for the likes of Rebel Without a Cause and Jailhouse Rock, with Depp playing a parentless, leather-jacketed “drape” (think “greaser”) bent on edging out his high school’s leading square for the affections of a beautiful, conflicted good girl (Amy Locane)—she too, in a typical Waters twist, orphaned under bizarre circumstances. Even when playing it soft, Waters never plays it straight, and Cry-Baby, for all its affectionate evocations of Baltimore’s past, continues the director’s fascination with the way people transform themselves (often grotesquely) for the sake of social acceptance, recognition, and fame. With supporting turns by Polly Bergen, Joe Dallesandro, Troy Donahue, Joey Heatherton, Traci Lords, Susan Tyrrell, and Iggy Pop.
September 13, 3:00pm
September 14, 8:00pm

Desperate Living
John Waters, USA, 1977, 35mm, 90m

Mortville—the fictional setting of Waters’s mid-career masterpiece—is a dangerous place. Ruled by a despotic queen (Edith Massey) and her small army of leathered-up Nazi enforcers, overrun with ruin, dilapidation, and decay, and populated by a motley crew of outlaws and outcasts, it’s a vision of what the world might look like if Waters were God. When two runaways, a mentally unstable suburban housewife (Mink Stole) and her obese maid (Jean Hill), disrupt the town’s already unstable balance of power, chaos and revolution ensue. Amateur sex-change-operation reversals, attempts at biological warfare, cross-dressing highway patrolmen, butch-lesbian wrestlers, frozen babies, and nudist-colony digressions: Waters’s first feature made without Divine or David Lochary—the latter passed away the year of the film’s release—is a catalogue of horrors that veers between comedy and disgust, or, as Waters himself described it, “a fairy tale for fucked-up children.”
September 7, 6:30pm

A Dirty Shame
John Waters, USA, 2004, 35mm, 89m

After taking on the suburban melodrama, the message picture, and the rock ’n’ roll film, Waters tried his hand at making an old-fashioned sexploitation movie (the kind, he recalled, that “all the nuns told him he would go to hell” for watching). Tracey Ullman plays a frigid housewife who suffers a concussion that fills her with a sudden, extreme sexual appetite. Most of the movie’s characters—including a voracious sex-addicted mechanic (Johnny Knoxville) and a go-go dancer with breasts the size of life rafts (Selma Blair)—follow suit, each developing their own peculiar (and, according to Waters, entirely genuine) fetish. A Dirty Shame has the encyclopedic, freak-show flair of Waters’s earlier movies, coupled with the nostalgic tinge of his recent work—a fitting balance for the director’s last completed film to date.
September 13, 5:00pm

John Waters, USA, 1988, 35mm, 92m

After spending six films and 20 years overturning the principles and conventions of his middle-class Catholic upbringing, Waters made this affectionate, PG-rated tribute to growing up in early-1960s Baltimore—and promptly became a crossover sensation. A bundle of narratives centered around Tracy (Ricki Lake), a heavyset teenager who dances a mean Limbo Rock, and her fight to integrate a local TV dance show—inspired by the real-life The Buddy Deane Show, which ended its run in 1964 after a series of NAACP protests—Hairspray proudly carried over the sharp-edged, often self-incriminating irony of Waters’s earlier films. The movie’s tone, on the other hand, was warmer, gentler, and more reflective than those movies ever would have allowed. What seemed like a new beginning for Waters turned out to be a farewell for Divine, whose dual role as both Tracy’s mom and the TV station’s bigoted owner was his final Dreamland screen performance.
September 7, 4:30pm

John Waters, USA, 1998, 35mm, 87m

Waters’s send-up of the New York art world is also a loving, detailed portrait of working-class life in Baltimore—where Waters, by the time of Pecker’s production, had become a bona fide local hero—and a sort-of allegory for his own rise to fame. Edward Furlong plays an irrepressible teen photographer whose grainy snapshots of local outcasts unexpectedly make him and his girlfriend (Christina Ricci) heroes of the Manhattan cognoscenti (among them Cindy Sherman, playing herself). Whitney exhibits and magazine cover offers follow, but Pecker, in the end, stays true to his roots—in this case, his sister’s gay strip club and his grandmother’s talking statue of the Virgin Mary. At the time of its making, Pecker, despite Waters’s public protests to the contrary, was likely the closest he had come to expressing his own attitude toward the Hollywood system that embraced him.
September 14, 4:00pm

Pink Flamingos
John Waters, USA, 1972, 35mm, 93m

The movie’s long lineup of abuses—bestiality, indecent public exposure, cannibalism, sexual violence, forced impregnation, incest, castration, and, in the movie’s infamous finale, on-screen coprophagia—made it an instant sensation on the midnight-movie circuit. But the story of ferocious trailer-park resident Babs Johnson (Divine) and her quest to upstage her neighbors as the “filthiest person alive” is, at its heart, a warped celebration of community and a showcase for Waters’s particular brand of pitch-black humor. The result is a classic of transgressive cinema, less a scream against convention than a gleeful laugh in its face.
September 13, 9:15pm
September 14, 6:00pm

John Waters, USA, 1981, 86m

For his typically subversive take on the Hollywood melodrama, Waters shifted his focus from Baltimore’s urban crannies to its middle-class suburbs. Divine—in his penultimate performance for Waters—plays a sharp-nosed suburban housewife caught between the demands of her philandering porn-hawking husband, her go-go dancer daughter, and her glue-sniffing son, a foot-fetishist wanted for mangling the toes of a series of women. Her only solace is in the company of her old friend Cuddles (Edith Massey) and in her new covert romance with the dashing art-house movie theater owner Todd Tomorrow (Tab Hunter, a Hollywood star whose old-fashioned good looks make him hilariously—and pointedly—out of place among Waters’s Dreamlanders). Presented in Odorama, a system Waters devised in which theatergoers were handed scratch-and-sniff cards to use during the film, Polyester is a key transitional film in Waters’s career, and a pivotal entry in the history of the sordid-suburbia black comedy. (Todd Solondz, eat your heart out!)
Audience members will receive a free rare ODORAMA card to scratch and sniff their way through the film.
September 6, 7:30 pm

Serial Mom
John Waters, USA, 1994, 35mm, 95m

In this scathing suburban satire—a kind of spiritual sequel to Polyester—Waters continued to develop his interest in unorthodox, tight-knit domestic groups, his obsession with the connections between cruelty, criminality, and fame, and his deep feeling for the closeness of humor to disgust. Serial Mom, like its immediate predecessors, was another polished Hollywood production, but with a harsher MPAA rating than Hairspray or Cry-Baby to go along with its edgier premise: a conscientious mother of two (Kathleen Turner, in a rafter-shaking performance) casually takes up serial murder out of a combination of boredom and mild irradiation at perceived slights and faux pas. The result is one of Waters’s most sustained critiques of a world in which life is supposedly safe and secure—unless, that is, you wear white shoes after Labor Day.
September 5, 9:15pm (Introduction by John Waters)
September 6, 3:00pm


Join us for a once-in-a-lifetime evening as John Waters presents his first two features, Mondo Trasho and Multiple Maniacs, along with early short The Diane Linkletter Story, all on 16mm. These exceedingly rare prints are from Waters's personal collection, and probably screening for the last time ever! Waters will be joined onstage for a conversation with critic Dennis Dermody.

Multiple Maniacs
John Waters, USA, 1970, 16mm, 90m

Poised between the grimy black-and-white chaos of Mondo Trasho and the fierce, demented intelligence of Pink Flamingos, Waters’s second feature is an equal-opportunity assault on conventional morality and the virtues of hippiedom. Divine is the haughty proprietress of a traveling freak show—“Lady Divine’s Cavalcade of Perversions”—that exists as little more than an excuse for her and her lover (David Lochary) to rob and kill their bourgeois patrons. When her partner turns against her, she embarks on a dark night (and day) of the soul that includes a confrontation with the National Guard, a burst of cannibalism, a giant lobster, and a vision of the Stations of the Cross as only Waters could film them. For all its outré sacrileges, Multiple Maniacs ultimately arrives at its own kind of religious ecstasy.
The Diane Linkletter Story
John Waters, USA, 1970, 10m

The day after conservative radio host and TV celebrity Art Linkletter’s 20-year-old daughter committed suicide, Waters whipped up—“by accident,” he later said—this improvised, deliciously nasty satire of the girl’s final days, with David Lochary and Mary Vivian Pearce as the victim’s fretful parents and Divine as Diane.
Mondo Trasho
John Waters, USA, 1969, 16mm, 95m

Waters’s first feature—a ragged, nearly dialogue-free fable shot guerrilla-style in the streets, alleyways, laundromats and immediate surroundings of Baltimore for just over $2,000—introduced moviegoers to his recurring company of players and caught his singular trash-opera style in full bloom. A mysterious blonde (Mary Vivian Pearce) passes through a series of nightmarish encounters with (among others) a foot fetishist, a diva with questionable driving skills seeking salvation (Divine), a topless tap dancer, a hacksaw-wielding mad scientist and his sickness-prone nurse, and, eventually, the Virgin Mary, accompanied by a soundtrack of traditional liturgical music, bells, whistles, moans, gossip, and prayers. Mondo Trasho’s plot setup comes from a rich tradition of grimy women-in-trouble cult films, from Daughter of Horror to Carnival of Souls, but its skewed comic sensibility is all Waters’s own.
September 11, 7:00pm (including a conversation between John Waters and Dennis Dermody)


Eat Your Makeup
John Waters, USA, 1968, digital projection, 45m

Maelcum Soul—“the Kiki of Baltimore”—plays a governess who kidnaps young women and forces them to model themselves to death. Waters’ first narrative short, also includes a 21-year old Divine doing his best Jackie Kennedy impersonation in a startling reenactment of John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

Hag in a Black Leather Jacket
John Waters, USA, 1964, digital projection, 17m

In Waters’s first short—shot on stolen 8mm film for $30 on his parents’ rooftop when he was still a teenager, and screened precisely once after its completion—a wedding ceremony between an African-American man and a white ballerina performed by a Ku Klux Klan minister takes a turn for the surreal.

Roman Candles
John Waters, USA, 1966, digital projection, 40m

Under the influence of Warhol’s Chelsea Girls, Waters designed this free-form, disruptive collage of image and sound to be triple-projected on three screens side by side. Roman Candles found Waters, then fresh out of film school, testing out a handful of techniques he’d refine in his first two features, not to mention working for the first time with many of the actors—Divine, David Lochary, Mink Stole, Mary Vivian Pearce—who were constant presences in his life and work.
September 5, 4:00pm; September 6, 5:00pm and 9:30pm; September 7, 6:30pm and 8:30pm; September 11, 5:00pm


Here they are—eight extreme, astoundingly perverse, darkly funny, and, most importantly, supremely surprising films that turn me green with envy. Every day I feel inadequate thinking of these fanatically obsessive, ludicrously sexual, unfathomably criminal, melodramatically misguided cinematic gems. Why oh why can’t I make films like these—ones that jolted me out of all cinematic lethargy? Exploitation, art, horror? There’s no such thing as genre when you’ve slipped to the other side of cinema-sanity. See for yourself the movies that drove me beyond the pale of normal movie madness. Jealousy over other directors’ careers is a terrible thing to waste. — John Waters

Before I Forget
Jacques Nolot, France, 2007, 35mm, 108m

French with English subtitles
This wonderfully depressing movie about an older HIV-positive man is brave, funny, gayly incorrect, and smart as a whip. The shitting-in-your-pants-when-you-try-to-go-out-cruising scene is one I will never be able to shake.
September 14, 1:45pm

David Cronenberg, Canada/UK, 1996, 35mm, 100m

A hilariously brilliant and erotic movie about car crashes and the sexual cultists who fetishize them.
September 13, 7:00pm

Final Destination
James Wong, USA/Canada, 2000, 35mm, 98m

I’m a sucker for plane-crash scenes, and the opening of this “you can’t cheat death” nail-biter was so suspenseful and horrifying that it spawned four sequels (all good, too!). You’ll never tell anyone to “have a safe flight” again.
September 12, 9:30pm (introduction by John Waters)

Killer Joe
William Friedkin, USA, 2011, 35mm, 102m

The best Russ Meyer film of the decade—only it’s directed by an 80-year-old William Friedkin, proving the adage “old chickens make good soup.” Gina Gershon, your performance here shocked me raw!
September 7, 8:30pm

The Mother
Roger Michell, USA, 2003, 35mm, 112m

A recently widowed grandmother turns horny and has a secret affair with her daughter’s much younger, loutish boyfriend (played by pre-Bond Daniel Craig). Gerontophilia never seemed so exciting.
September 6, 5:00pm

Night Games
Mai Zetterling, Sweden, 1966, 35mm, 105m

Swedish with English subtitles
The Swedish art shocker that made board member Shirley Temple Black quit the San Francisco International Film Festival in protest over their refusal to pull it from the screening schedule.
September 6, 9:30pm

Of Unknown Origin
George P. Cosmatos, Canada/USA, 1983, 35mm, 88m

The best rat movie ever. Period. End of discussion.
September 10, 7:00pm

Alain Cavalier, France, 1986, 35mm, 94m

French with English subtitles
The insane life of nutcase Saint Theresa, told in a haunting, minimalist way. Yes, she was in love with Jesus—but does that make her a bad person? Catholic lunacy at its most disturbing.
September 7, 2:30pm

Public Screening Schedule

Screening Venues:
The Film Society of Lincoln Center

Walter Reade Theater, 165 West 65th Street
Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 West 65th Street

Friday, September 5
4:00PM Shorts Program: Eat Your Makeup (45m) + Hag in a Black Leather Jacket (17m) + Roman Candles (40m)
6:30PM OPENING NIGHT: Female Trouble (89m) + Discussion with John Waters and J. Hoberman
9:15PM Serial Mom (95m) + Introduction by John Waters

Saturday, September 6
3:00PM Serial Mom (95m)
5:00PM The Mother (112m)
5:00PM and 9:30PM Shorts Program: Eat Your Makeup (45m) + Hag in a Black Leather Jacket (17m) + Roman Candles (40m)
7:30PM Polyester (86m)
9:30PM Night Games (105m)

Sunday, September 7
2:30PM Thérèse (94m)
4:30PM Hairspray (92m)
6:30PM Desperate Living (90m)
6:30PM and 8:30PM Shorts Program: Eat Your Makeup (45m) + Hag in a Black Leather Jacket (17m) + Roman Candles (40m)
8:30PM Killer Joe (102m)

Wednesday, September 10
7:00PM Of Unknown Origin (88m)
9:00PM Female Trouble (89m)

Thursday, September 11
5:30PM Shorts Program: Eat Your Makeup (45m) + Hag in a Black Leather Jacket (17m) + Roman Candles (40m)
7:00PM Celluloid Atrocity Night: Multiple Maniacs (90m) + The Diane Linkletter Story (10m) + Mondo Trasho (95m) + Conversation with John Waters & Dennis Dermody

Friday, September 12
7:00PM Cecil B. Demented (87m) + Discussion with John Waters
9:30PM Final Destination (98m) + Introduction by John Waters

Saturday, September 13
3:00PM Cry-Baby (85m)
5:00PM A Dirty Shame (89m)
7:00PM Crash (100m)
9:15PM Pink Flamingos (93m)

Sunday, September 14
1:45PM Before I Forget (108m)
4:00PM Pecker (87m)
6:00PM Pink Flamingos (93m)
8:00PM Cry-Baby (85m)

Founded in 1969 to celebrate American and international cinema, the Film Society of Lincoln Center works to recognize established and emerging filmmakers, support important new work, and to enhance the awareness, accessibility, and understanding of the moving image. The Film Society produces the renowned New York Film Festival, a curated selection of the year’s most significant new film work, and presents or collaborates on other annual New York City festivals including Dance on Camera, Film Comment Selects, Human Rights Watch Film Festival, LatinBeat, New Directors/New Films, NewFest, New York African Film Festival, New York Asian Film Festival, New York Jewish Film Festival, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema and Rendez-Vous with French Cinema. In addition to publishing the award-winning Film Comment magazine, the Film Society recognizes an artist's unique achievement in film with the prestigious Chaplin Award. The Film Society’s state-of-the-art Walter Reade Theater and the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, located at Lincoln Center, provide a home for year-round programs and the New York City film community.

The Film Society receives generous, year-round support from Royal Bank of Canada, Jaeger-LeCoultre, American Airlines, The New York Times, Stella Artois, the Kobal Collection, Trump International Hotel and Tower, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts. For more information, visit www.filmlinc.com and follow @filmlinc on Twitter.

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