(au) wrote: "Polyester" is a sort of warped women's picture, something reminiscent of a forgotten late career Liz Taylor vehicle that everyone glances at for a moment only to go back to drooling over something "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" related. I'm sure John Waters wanted it that way. Around the time "Polyester" came out (the early '80s, to be exact), he began to get bored with merely shocking people; he had ideas, dammit, and he was going to show the world! Making his favorite drag queen feast on dog poop for the sake of a jolt wasn't going to cut it anymore. So, following "Polyester", he became increasingly mainstream friendly, his next venture being 1987's "Hairspray", which was, in turn, followed by "Cry-Baby" and "Serial Mom". I've only witnessed the latter two - I'm too terrified to watch his earlier, more disgusting ventures - and it's impossible not to get a kick out of his filmmaking instincts. Waters has said that he finds equal influence in high-brow art films and sleazy exploitation trash heaps, and "Polyester" combines the characteristics of the two with startling mastery. It ain't Bergman and it ain't Hill - instead, it's like a Joan Crawford sudser that bled internally after getting shot at a 711 but still decided to crawl to the nearest movie premiere to make an entrance with drama. The film is satire, but it's also a love letter, a stan, if you will, of the Hollywood Golden Age chick flick. If you aren't so convinced of "Polyester"'s determination to give a sloppy kiss to the good old days of the campy melodrama, listen to this plot: overweight housewife Francine Fishpaw (Divine), who considers herself to be an atypical "good, Christian woman", is about to have a nervous breakdown: her dear husband, Elmer (David Samson), is the successful owner of a local porn theatre and an adulterer of the lowest common denominator. Her kids are maniacs: her daughter (Mary Garlington) is an aspiring go-go dancer knocked up by a hoodlum, while her son (Ken King), a glue-sniffer, is currently making media rounds as the Baltimore Foot Stomper. She has no friends, besides the asinine Cuddles (Edith Massey), and her verbally abusive mother (Joni Ruth White) makes sure to frequently stop by the house simply so she can berate her. So after her life eventually goes completely down the shitter (and I mean completely), she spirals into an alcohol-fueled depression. But after she meets Todd Tomorrow (Tab Hunter), a corvette driving businessman, things begin to look up. I know, I know, "Polyester" sorta kinda sounds like an extremely over-the-top drama even Bette Davis would have turned down. But this time around, drama doesn't seem like the right kind of word by way of description. Is there a right word(s) to accurately describe "Polyester"? Consider: our female lead is a poorly dressed drag queen who has no problem reminding us that she is, in fact, a man (always a running joke for Waters). Consider that Tab Hunter, yes, Tab Hunter, the Golden Boy of the 1950s teen movie, is her love interest; that her supposed BFF, portrayed by the indelibly lovable Massey, is nearly toothless; that the film, as part of a marketing stunt, came with Odorama scratch-and-sniff cards to give the viewers a realistic aromatic experience. Nothing about "Polyester" is remotely serious, and I like it all the more for it. At first, it seems like a bunch of super messed up friends got together and decided to make a movie, but as the film continues, one realizes that Waters is actually a clever writer, and Divine is a star, especially when it comes to sniffing loudly (you've got to promote that Odorama, after all), making disgruntled moans, and being all around charismatic. Yes, "Polyester" is chintzy, but sometimes, even the trashiest of entertainment seems like some form of bizarre art. Waters loves to throw garbage at us, but he's good at it. He's a smart director and a smart writer, as good at shocking as he is causing a guffaw. And you're damn right he calls this a living.
(kr) wrote: Director Werner Herzog has been making some exceptionally great documentary films lately, and this foray into a long forgotten cave in France is no exception. Much of the film relies on showing the audience what it takes to get into the cave, which is cordoned off from the viewing public to keep out mold and particles that could destroy the cave paintings. (Which are the oldest in the known world.) In the last twenty minutes of the documentary we get to see all the paintings up close, without narration, and only simple music to soothe and calm. The film played extensively in the IMAX theaters in 3D, and the effects of that would probably have been transient. Still, without that glorious illusion the paintings still look beautiful, as is the way they are filmed. We learn the history of them before we see many of them, so their meaning is all the more fluid and histrionic, making the spectacle into one unmatched in modern cinema.