- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: Alyson Books; 1 edition (June 1, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1555836259
- ISBN-13: 978-1555836252
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.5 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,451,144 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Filthy: The Weird World of John Waters Paperback – June 1, 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
Late last year, Alyson published My Son Divine by the late drag performer's mother with ace assistance by two filmmakers who shot In Bad Taste and Divine Trash, two documentaries about Waters. This breezy guide to the life and films of the Baltimore filmmaker lacks the research and thoroughness of the earlier effort. Waters's own Shock Value (1981) is still the definitive book on his life and career. Shock covered his early short films and first five full-length features (including Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble). Since the publication of that book, Waters has made six more films (including Hairspray, Polyester and Cecil B. Demented). Instead of offering Waters fans a useful update, Pela recycles information about the earlier films. The author's interest wanes during the later films (the Johnny Depp musical Cry Baby merits a mere three pages and Serial Mom with Kathleen Turner is brushed off in three paragraphs). Equally frustrating are the chapters where Pela makes himself the focus: his disappointing visit to Baltimore; his trip to a spiritual medium to speak with the deceased Divine and his talk with scary, obsessive fans of Waters. A misplaced bluffers guide, which reads more like an appendix, interrupts the chronology midway through to wax on rats, shoplifting, vomit, fat women and other recurring imagery and motifs in John Waters films. The useful filmography (running more than 50 pages) contains fun facts (Best Moment, Low Point, Best Dialogue) and brief reviews.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
About the Author
Robrt Pela is a contributing writer for Men's Fitness and The Advocate as well as a theater critic whose reviews appear each week in the New Times and are heard on NPR's Morning Edition. He lives in Phoenix.
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Another unfortunate aspect of "Filthy" is that the author makes one too many mistakes throughout the text, either with facts or with plot descriptions. These errors may be considered minor to the casual Waters fan, but will absolutely ruin the reading experience for John Waters fanatics by prompting them to take what the author says with a grain of salt. For example, Pela states that Jean Hill has no lines in Polyester. Anyone who has seen the film, and enjoys it as much as I do, knows that this is not true. Her scene is one of the funniest moments in the film, as she spews out insults a mile a minute to a passing car full of teenagers.
In addition, one can easily tell which films Pela doesn't care much for because he nearly eschews them completely. The passage about Serial Mom is less than a page, which is disappointing because it is the best film from Waters' post-Polyester days. It's also sad when what seems like half of the book is comprised of a filmography with cast and crew lists, plot synopses, dialogue, and other assorted facts that are either repeated from earlier chapters or could (and should) have been placed elsewhere in the book.
What is good about "Filthy"? It is well-written and is pretty comprehensive in outlining how these films were made, in a cramped sort of way. The chapters on Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, and Polyester were thorough and the chapter about the author's visit to Baltimore was mildly amusing. There were a few quotes from Waters, Divine, Mink Stole, and others, that I had never read before and a couple of facts here and there that enlightened me to a point. I suppose "Filthy" would be a good guide for people who know little or nothing about John Waters and his films, but it is obvious that Pela has no first-hand experience speaking with the people behind these films. The chapters about the fans and about Pela contacting Divine beyond the grave--not to mention the bloated filmography at the end of the book--are simply filler. The author has taken all of this information from other works of reference and condensed it into one compact resource, which may be fine for some, but leave others like me begging for more substance.
I am a person of patterns. I like order. The way this book is set up chronologically really appeals to me. Robrt Pela did a great job setting up a description of each Waters project, along with a background on each of the players and Mr. Waters himself. I had no idea how disgusting John Waters really was (and continues to be). And how willing he was to put it all on film. In a trashy way, that appeals to me. Can't be perfect all the time.
The interviews with the bizarre Waters fans were well done. One would have to be pretty brave to converse with some of these folks. I liked how these interviews were set in-between the rest of the back story on Waters and his camp. I enjoy Robrt's sassy approach to his over anticipated introduction to Baltimore, and how at every turn he was disappointed that it wasn't more trashy.
My two favorite chapters are six and ten. I like six because it is nothing but quotes about one tiny scene. And ten because its the, "guide to recurring imagery and motifs in Johns Waters film." In this chapter, all the work has been done for the viewer. What could be better?
The filmography at the end is one of the best I have ever seen. I am constantly seeing and reading about movies. So to be able to read one as thorough as this one was, was a pleasant surprise. It was the perfect introduction to Waters world.
Well done Mr. Pela :)
The themes and motifs chapter and the filmography chapter were packed full of odd bits of trivia that were entertaining and fascinating. The book is informative yes, but incredibly funny! And how else could you, SHOULD you write about John Waters and his movies?
Waters himself said, "I pride myself on the fact that my work has no socially redeeming value." Maybe he's right, but he's become a movie icon and pop culture hero to many people nonetheless and Robrt Pela does a good job of explaining why that is in Filthy: The Weird World of John Waters.