Title: Pink Flamingos
Director: John Waters
Length: 92 minutes
On my quest to watch the 1001 movies list I found myself consuming movie after movie, trying to take as much as possible in. Preparing myself to crank out new articles discussing the greats and important movies of history. Rewatching became a necessity as I gathered my thoughts for most. However, I had to put a lot of those on pause and sit down and write about this movie I just saw. I wanted to sit down and crank it out while my thoughts were still fresh because there was absolutely no way I was going to rewatch this. I don’t even have words that can describe this movie, so I’ll do my best to express the feelings I experienced because it’s almost impossible to put into words what Pink Flamingos did.
Here is a movie that even Roger Ebert, the big man himself, said he will “not [be] giving a star rating to “Pink Flamingos,” because stars simply seem not to apply. It should be considered not as a film but as a fact, or perhaps as an object.” What he says isn’t crazy because as much as this is technically a movie in the sense that it was filmed on a camera, has actors saying lines from a script, has a story (as vague as it is) and was edited together, this, my friends, was NOT a movie but an experience. A lens into the lives of the filthiest and most disturbing people to walk this earth. Unlike most disturbing movies, this one has many moments that are NOT simulated as would be normal practice in a normal movie (disturbing or not). It’s almost as if you’re watching a documentary, the twisted home movies of a bunch of messed up people. What do you expect when the basic premise of the movie is two families fighting to see who is the filthiest on earth… when you really boil this movie down to its core I guess you can say it’s a movie about family.
John Waters directs and it stars Divine and his regular cast of misfits. Misfits is an understatement, the fact he convinced and they all willingly did half of what was done is a true testament to their friendship to the director. A gang of psychotics getting together to make a “movie”. Imagine Jackass but without the context of a bunch of man-children doing stupid stunts to get laughs. They’re not going for laughs here, they’re going for disgust and they’re thriving in it, enjoying every minute that you’re sitting there uncomfortable. Just when you think you had seen the worse this film has to offer, it presents you with something even more disturbing. I’d like to think I am a desensitized person and can watch about anything, but this movie had about three scenes that I felt very uncomfortable, disgusted or just completely shocked that it was incredibly difficult to watch. Do I want to rewatch this and risk being desensitized even more to this kind of stuff? Absolutely not, that would be horrible.
This “movie” has you questioning a lot of things. Things you once thought to be true are now being doubted, like What makes a good movie? I mean technically, by all means, this should be considered a terrible movie, yet here it is one the 1001 Movies list. Criterion even re-released it at some point. It has been preserved and considered important as a movie, and considered an important movie for the LGBTQ+ community, actually THE most important queer film. It’s amassed a huge cult following with people who love it, absolutely love it to bits and somehow sits with an 80% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. These are things I cannot explain and to be honest, I will not even begin to attempt explaining any of it. This “movie” exists as a fact and honestly should just continue to live its life that way. You don’t watch this to watch a movie, you watch this to live an experience you didn’t need but were too morbidly curious not to. This is considered an important movie and I can’t tell you why. But I don’t think there needs to be a reason why. It’s just something we need to accept, it’s a lens into the filth of society, a commentary on the scum of the world and an honest (too honest) look at what that is. If I even begin to try and think too hard about this movie’s existence as an important piece of cinema, I’ll be torturing my pure mind as I look for answers I will never get. This “movie” exists and just is and that’s all it needs to be.
To recommend this movie would mean I hate you. It means I wish you to experience this abomination without your consent. This isn’t a movie you recommend to anyone. This is a movie you watch purely on your own volition. When I say you need to be in a mood to watch this movie, you really need to be in a specific mood. There’s a reason this movie is such a cult classic because there’s no way this would ever be a mainstream affair no matter how hard it tries to be. Should you watch this? Only if you’re so damn curious that you want to see what this movie really is and to experience for yourself for the mere fact that you can tell people you experienced it, then go ahead watch it. Just don’t say I told you to. If you’re ok with scenes that involve unsimulated, incestual blowjobs, a close-up of a whistling asshole contracting open and closed, a live chicken being killed on screen, a woman eating actual dog shit just because and an adoption ring where they kidnap female hitchhikers and force their butler to impregnate them, then sure watch it. If not, then I highly suggest you don’t check this one out.