As the cinema's premier purveyor of trash, John Waters has created a body of work as tasteful as pit beef. In exploring Baltimore's underbelly, he has elevated sleaze to an art form and made films that are the guiltiest of guilty pleasures. Briefly enrolled as a film student at New York University, Waters was expelled and left to his own devices as an aspiring filmmaker. He began his exercises with a Super-8 camera for Hag in a Black Leather Jacket, filming an interracial marriage performed by a Ku Klux Klan member. This was followed by two more shorts, Roman Candles and Eat Your Makeup, before he made his first feature in 1969, Mondo Trasho. With his third feature, Pink Flamingos, Waters became a star of the midnight cult-screening circuit. His newfound infamy continued as he made outrageous films with utterly revolting moments. With Hairspray, he went mainstream with an inadvertently family-friendly movie; he later sought revenge with his viciously sitcomish Serial Mom, starring Kathleen Turner as a lethally overprotective mother. His latest, Cecil B. Demented, takes guerrilla filmmaking to heart when an indie director kidnaps a starlet and forces her to act in his underground opus. It is scheduled to be released later this year. Although the production values may have improved since he began shooting films, his passions have remained truly depraved. "One must remember that there is such a thing as good bad taste and bad bad taste," the mustachioed one has said. Waters' work has become the standard of good bad taste.
Check out Free Thursdays for information on the related film series The Faces of Trash. For more fun and games with John Waters, try either of these unofficial sites, Dreamland or the John Waters Worship Page.
THE WALKER'S PRESENTATION OF JOHN WATERS: SHOCK VALUE IS MADE POSSIBLE WITH GENEROUS SUPPORT FROM THE REGIS FOUNDATION.