Friday, July 24, 2015
A DIRTY SHAME (2004)
Written & Directed By: John Waters
Cinematography By: Steve Gainer
Editor: Jeffrey Wolf
Cast: Tracy Ullman, Chris Isaak, Selma Blair, Suzanne Shepherd, Patricia Hearst, James Ransone, Johnny Knoxville, Mink Stole, Ricki Lake
Middle-aged, sexually repressed Sylvia Stickles is the subject of this John Water's film, set in North Baltimore. She refuses to have sex with her husband, Vaughn Stickles, and keeps her overly-endowed daughter, Caprice, locked in her room, while she serves home detention for moral depravity charges. Sylvia, together with her mother Big Ethel, lead a group calling themselves "neuters" that promotes decency on Harford Road. When Sylvia is accidentally hit on the head by a lawnmower hanging out of a passing pick-up truck, however, her sexual behavior is changed completely from prude to prostitute. She meets the sex addicted sexual healer Ray Ray Perkins, becoming his twelfth apostle of sex in a journey of pleasure and orgasm.
John waters is a master auteur. One who knows how to keep his self indulgences in check necessarily. While bathing his films in them. His movies are usually under 90 minutes efficient enough to say all he truly wishes to. Usually his films are 100 minutes or lower. I always remember a critic once wrote that "as an auteur John waters can write and film his view and express his opinions in such a short amount of time. So that his films never seem overblown, too long or overwrought. Note to indulgent filmmakers" I always remembered that and was happy job waters could be so consist and clear quickly also. He never wears out his welcome and you always can't wait until he comes back. He is one of the people I admire because he has a lot of the qualities I hope I can also be known for. He is very intelligent, well read, witty, non-judgmental. Infatuated with the macabre and distasteful. He Is nicknamed the sultan of trash. An artist and art collector, cultured, well rounded and a true original and a snappy dresser.
So It’s with that, that I begin my review. Which Is probably biased.
A DIRTY SHAME should be a home run for Mr. Waters as he throws off the shackles of his more safe films. For a return to his more experimental and daring films filled with a more adult subject matter. This is after all a film about fetishes and sex addiction. The subject matter is prefect for him and while I did love the sun of it's parts and learned a lot about fetishes that are now stored in my old memory bank. I felt like something was missing. Maybe the old anarchist spit he tries to provoke with age maybe isn't as strong and doesn't desire to be as crude as it used to be and is more cultured and tactful, but still I found the film delightful. Giving me all the thrills and pleasures I needed for my cinematic fix.
You can't necessarily review a John Waters film the same way you would others to a degree maybe that's just for me. The same is true with most noted and celebrated auteurs with followings. They all have a certain style and perception to thee films and work. Hal Hartley for instance has the droll slow unemotional but highly intelligent dialogue and characters. John water films are intentionally campy, melodramatic, surreal, colorful and even though it might be a satirization. He gives all his characters well rounded motivations and purpose. Even some earnestness. There are no real villains. some who see his films and have visited baltimore have said they never knew his films could have been documentaries.
Trust me with this film if you are a John waters devotee. This will be your fix.
Even though my favorite John Waters film. It’s his tamest HAIRSPRAY which was the first of his oeuvre for me to watch at the. Years old (Though not the first of Divine that I saw. He first film I actually saw with Divine was LUST IN THE DUST. Which could have been directed by John waters as it was a parody while staying in the comedic guidelines of the western genre. But Unfortunately he didn't make it so it would be more Waters-esque. It starred tab hunter, Lanie Kazan, Geoffrey Lewis and Devine. Plus Mary Jo Catlett, who played the second housekeeper on different strokes the one who replaces Mrs. Garrett played by Charlotte Rae. Plus a little person.
The performances in this film are fit to be tied. I enjoyed the cast who all commit to their roles with no vanity. Selma Blair and Chris Isaak were new to me in these type of roles. Quite a bit of daring on their parts. It's nice to see the old waters regulars like Patricia Hearst and mink stole back in action. I loved Suzanne Shepherd as big Ethel, who was both hilarious and scary at the same time.
Paul Giamatti was originally meant to play Vaughn Stickles, Here played by Chris Isaak but dropped out to play in SIDEWAYS.
The script I'd filled with can't miss one of a kind dialogue like "hey you, no blow jobs" that fit perfectly in this film and not too many others.
This film has a quality that a lot of films lack a sense of fun overall. Though there are plenty of naughty things happening on screen. In the audience it feels like a certain camaraderie with the actors on screen and the audience watching the film.
Even though this is not my favorite film by him. This film is a lot of fun a d highly recommended though Definitely not family viewing unless you are a very liberal and open one. If you are expecting HAIRSPRAY you are mistaken and won't find many traces here, but of you are a waters virgin this is a delicious place to start.
The scene where Sylvia changes her clothes in the back of the cab is based on a true story. John Waters once had to change clothes in the back of a cab on his way from an airport straight to a book signing.
A movie that more or less survives more on a return to form rather than the actual quality.
As the film is fun and very broad comedically. It doesn't quite work as it seems more disjointed and intending to shock more than actually be coherent and a comedy.
While the film gets nasty. One can't tell because of age or maybe how morals have changed over the years. That this film doesn't seem as rebellious or challenging it feels almost mainstream to a degree. Doesn't have that dangerous underground feel that John waters used to have or even the subversive qualities his film as of late used to surround and embroil themselves in. This film feels rather tame yet a appreciative return to form. It is unfortunately also his last film as of this date. As he says he doesn't feel inspired and the only film he desires to make is a Christmas children's film he wrote the script for titled FRUITCAKE.
Not only is it a return to form but a reunion for his regular actors in supporting roles. The leads are taken by actors new to his cinematic universe though they all seem like they belong.
Especially Johnny Knoxville and Tracy Ullman and proving she is up for anything comedically and has no fear in this role.
The book David Hasselhoff reads near the end of the film, "Suicide In The Entertainment Industry" is a real book given to John Waters as a gift.
The film has great ideas and ends up becoming quite charming and fun. As well as introducing or teaching a bunch of new fetishes. So you can look at the film also as a bit of sex education.
It pushes the envelope, yet comes off mostly as tame and ridiculous. Not to take anything away from John waters. Who stays a maverick, but maybe as an audience if you follow him. You just get used to his point of view and films. Luckily it contains his hallmarks, yet offers nothing really new or surprising. It also doesn't seem like his heart and passion is in it as much. As this just seems more of a lark and to have fun. More like a challenge film to the film industry at large.
I wish he would return
When the MPAA were asked what would needed to be cut to obtain an R rating, they replied that if everything the MPAA objected to were to be removed, the movie would only be 10 minutes long. So According to John Waters, when he asked the MPAA what would need to be removed in order for the film to obtain an R rating, he was told "after a while, we just stopped taking notes."
Watch on DVD unrated which is the only way to truly enjoy this film. I also suggest a cocktail to go with it