To experience a John Waters movie is to experience the carnivalesque. No other filmmaker can make his audience laugh till their eyes water, cringe in their seats, and potentially throw up — all in the same moment. To watch one of his films is to experience a delicious delirium that makes you realize that he has turned your world and expectations topsy-turvy.
Dennis Lim, the Film Society’s Director of Programming at the Lincoln Center, says it best when he observes that John Waters is “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. 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.”
We are excited to welcome John Waters to our campus. This student-inspired event was made possible by generous support from the University Lecture Series, numerous university entities, and private donations.
Tickets will be free and available from the UM Box Office by mid February.
About John Waters:
Born in Baltimore, MD, in 1946, John Waters was drawn to movies at an early age, particularly exploitation movies with lurid ad campaigns. Using Baltimore, which he fondly dubbed the “Hairdo Capitol of the World,” as the setting for all his films, Waters assembled a cast of ensemble players, mostly native Baltimoreans and friends of long standing: Divine, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce, Mink Stole, and Edith Massey. Waters also established lasting relationships with key production people, such as production designer Vincent Peranio, costume designer Van Smith, and casting director Pat Moran, helping to give his films that trademark Waters “look.”
Waters made his first film, an 8-mm short, Hag in a Black Leather Jacket, in 1964, starring Mary Vivian Pearce. Waters followed with Roman Candles in 1966, the first of his films to star Divine and Mink Stole. In 1970, Waters completed what he described as his first “celluloid atrocity,” Multiple Maniacs and in 1972 he created what would become the most “notorious” film in the American independent cinema of the 1970’s, Pink Flamingos, which would turn Waters into a cult celebrity. Pink Flamingos went on to become a smash success at midnight screenings in the U.S. and all over the world.
In Hairspray (1988), Waters created “an almost big-budget comedy extravaganza about star-struck teen-age celebrities in 1962, their stage mothers and their quest for mental health.” The film was a box office and critical success and starred the then unknown Ricki Lake, Deborah Harry, the late Sonny Bono, Jerry Stiller, Pia Zadora, and Ric Ocasek.
The success of Hairspray brought Waters major Hollywood backing for his next feature, Cry-Baby (1990), a juvenile delinquent musical comedy satire, starring Johnny Depp. In 1994, Waters released Serial Mom, the well reviewed, socially un-redeeming comedy starring Kathleen Turner and Sam Waterston, which was the closing night attraction at that year’s Cannes Film Festival.
In addition to writing and directing feature films, Waters is the author of eight books: Shock Value, Crackpot, Pink Flamingos and Other Filth, Hairspray, Female Trouble and Multiple Maniacs, Art: A Sex Book (co-written with art critic Bruce Hainley), and Role Models. His most recent book, Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America, was published in 2014 and made the New York Times bestsellers list for nonfiction.
Concurrent to his careers as a filmmaker and author, John Waters is also a photographer whose work, first represented by American Fine Arts and presently, the Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York and Sprüth Magers in Berlin and London, has been shown in galleries all over the world since 1992. He recently opened a new show of his photographs and sculptures at the Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York. Titled “Beverly Hills John,” it satirizes the worlds of film, art and literature.
In September 2014, Film Society of Lincoln Center honored John Waters’ fifty years in filmmaking with a 10-day celebration entitled “Fifty Years of John Waters: How Much Can You Take” featuring a complete retrospective of his film work.