Tuesday, 25 August 2015

All hail John Waters, The Pope of Trash

Female Trouble
American independent filmmaker John Waters has spent half-a-century celebrating trash culture in a series of cult movies.

The BFI Southbank celebrates 50 years of filth with a retrospective of a career that encompasses cult hits such as Pink Flamingos (1972), Female Trouble (1974) and Hairspray (1988), as well as bigger budget films like Cry Baby (1990) and Serial Mom (1994), starring Johnny Depp and Kathleen Turner respectively.

The season It isn’t Very Pretty… The Complete Films of John Waters (Every Goddam One of Them…) couldn’t claim to be screening ‘every goddamn one’ of his films without including Waters’ earliest forays into filmmaking, so the BFI is screening, free of charge, his short films from the 60s, which have never been seen in the UK.

Waters will take to the BFI Southbank stage for an In Conversation event with season curator Justin Johnson on Friday 18 September. He will also s introduce a number of screenings during the season.

“This tribute is like receiving a plenary indulgence from the movie gods above and for once I can be show-biz thrilled without the slightest drop of irony in my thanks,” said Waters. “Yikes, respectability… the final outrage!” 

John Waters has personally selected six eclectic British films to accompany the season in a dedicated sidebar Teabaggin’ in the Kitchen Sink: My Favourite British Films – these films have moved or inspired him in some shape or form, and include Joseph Losey’s Boom! (1968) and Roger Michell’s The Mother (2003).

50 years of filth
Dubbed ‘The Pope of Trash’, ‘The Prince of Puke’ and most recently by Paul Oswell of The Guardian, ‘The People’s Pervert’, Waters is a director who has consistently pushed the boundaries of taste.

Born and raised in Baltimore Waters began making short films as a teenager, having been influenced by the likes of Federico Fellini, William Castle and George and Mike Kuchar. He often used his home as a location, and his friends and associates as actors. This band of like-minded individuals known as the ‘Dreamlanders’, included Divine, Mary Vivian Pearce, David Lochary and Mink Stole.

Pink Flamingos
The Dreamlanders were the core cast members in Waters’ shorts: Hag in a Black Leather Jacket (1964), Roman Candles (1966) and Eat Your Makeup (1968). These underground short films will screen in a compilation programme - John Waters: The Early Shorts – providing fascinating examples of juvenilia, with moments of genius that hint at the films that would follow.

For his first feature Mondo Trasho (1969) Waters drew on the influence of both Andy Warhol and Russ Meyer to produce a guerrilla-style art piece starring his Dreamland Studios ensemble. Multiple Maniacs (1970) introduced audiences to ‘Lady Divine’s Cavalcade of Perversions’ - a free exhibit of various fetish acts and obscenities, which is also a front for a group of unruly criminals whose thirst for blood and violence will not be quenched.

Unseen on the big screen for decades, Multiple Maniacs will screen alongside The Diane Linkletter Story (1970), a short improvisation about the last hours of Diane Linkletter, the supposed drug-using daughter of a US TV personality. This film was all the more shocking for being made the day after this real-life event actually happened.

One of Waters’ most notorious films is Pink Flamingos (1972), a film that critic Roger Ebert famously offered zero stars. With scenes involving chicken sex, a singing orifice and the infamous dog-walking scene, the film still has the potential to offend just about everyone, even 40 years on.

Divine returned two years later to play Dawn Davenport in Female Trouble (1974), the tale of delinquent teenager embarks on a life of crime and a search for fame after being dealt the ultimate snub by her parents one Christmas: not receiving a pair of coveted cha-cha heels.

Water’s described his final film of the ’70s as a “monstrous lesbian fairy-tale about political corruption”. Desperate Living (1977) tells the story of Peggy Gravel and her maid Grizelda, who leave behind the suburban dream and find themselves in Mortville, a town for misfits and perverts ruled over by the sadistic and sexually suspect Queen Carlotta.

Waters’ nod to the 50s melodramas of Douglas Sirk, Polyester (1981), pairs the unlikely duo of Divine as Francine Fishpaw, a woman on the edge, and Hollywood hearthrob Tab Hunter as Todd Tomorrow, the man who promises to make her problems vanish. As with the original release of the film, Polyester will be presented during the season in joyful ‘Odorama’ with scratch ‘n’ sniff cards, so audiences can fully enjoy this feast for the senses.

Hairspray, followed in 1988, gave Waters the biggest hit of his career thus far; spawning an award-winning Broadway musical and a film remake. Hairspray was a PG-rated film, but maintained the subversive edge that had come to define Waters’ work. Ricki Lake played overweight teen Tracey Turnblad opposite Divine as her mother Edna. The film gave Divine the recognition he so longed for as a serious actor just weeks before his untimely death.

Serial Mom
Following the success of Hairspray, Waters began working with bigger budgets and more well-known stars, but his work continued to surprise and shock. Cry Baby (1990) starring Johnny Depp was set in ’50s Baltimore and told of the forbidden romance between Cry Baby Walker, a juvenile delinquent, and Allison Vernon-Williams, a square.

Serial Mom (1994) starred Kathleen Turner as Beverly Sutphin, a suburban housewife who also has an appetite for murder; the New York arts scene came under scrutiny in Pecker (1998), a sweet tale about a Baltimore boy with an eye for photography who makes a splash with his snaps of neighbourhood friends and family.

Waters returned to bad-boy form in the grotesque and hilarious send up of Hollywood and mainstream cinema, Cecil B. Demented (2000), while sex addiction went under the microscope in his last film to-date A Dirty Shame (2004).

Teabaggin’ in the Kitchen Sink: My favourite British films
A selection introduced by John Waters in his own words…
  • The Deep Blue Sea (Terence Davies, 2011): Unrequited love never looked more appealing. As you walk out of the theatre you’ll wish your loved one would dump you in the lobby so you could go home and wallow in suicidal misery as beautiful as what you just saw on screen.
  • Blue (Derek Jarman, 1993): An incredibly radical film that goes beyond the gimmicks of William Castle’s Emergo, beyond the boredom of Warhol’s Empire, beyond the theories of Lars von Trier’s Dogme 95 to a whole new minimalist level of what colour film can do when it is framed within the sound of sadness.
  • The Mother (Roger Michell, 2003): How would you feel if you came home and found your 65-year-old mother on her knees doing you know what with your boyfriend? Especially when she had told you he was no good for you? Especially when he’s Daniel Craig! Especially when he’s Daniel Craig looking this hot!
  • The Naked Civil Servant (Jack Gold, 1975): if there was a patron saint of damaged souls, Quentin Crisp would be the first to be canonised and his autobiography, The Naked Civil Servant, could serve as scripture. This TV movie adaptation of the same is so filled with respect and dignity that the director and actors will definitely go to movie heaven.
    The Naked Civil Servant
  • Trog (Freddie Francis, 1970): One of the most ludicrous, touching, mind-boggling star vehicles ever. Joan Crawford, desperate for a job, teams up with director Freddie Francis (!) and an actor in a pitiful monkey mask for a sci-fi howler like no other.
  • Boom! (Joseph Losey, 1968): Beyond bad, the other side of camp – a film so beautiful and awful there is only one word to describe it: perfect. If you don’t like this film, I hate you.

Film streaming research focuses on indie films

Third Star
Film streaming platform We Are Colony has teamed up with Film London and Edge Hill University to run a research project that explores ways to capitalise on digital film releases, empower filmmakers and satisfy audiences’ appetite for exclusive content.

Made possible by the Digital R&D fund for the Arts, the project examines the rapidly-evolving world of video-on-demand (VoD). It will examine how the We Are Colony platform can engage fans who are keen to unlock exciting additional content such as deleted scenes, interviews, scripts and trailers.

Sarah Tierney, founder of We Are Colony, said: “We are pleased to be working with a group of forward-thinking and innovative producers, distributors and sales agents, keen to interrogate the potential of new digital models to engage an audience early and through additional content. In addition, with content being delivered to registered account holders in over 100 countries, We Are Colony is looking forward to sharing data from the beta launch, and the results of a significant user survey looking at viewing behaviours and attitudes to content.”

The seven titles selected are Appropriate Behaviour, Third Star, The British Guide To Showing Off, Electricity, We Are Monster, Containment and Some Candid Observations on the Eve of the End of the World.

Adrian Wootton, chief executive of Film London and the British Film Commission, said: “Film London exists to help connect ideas, finance and talent at every stage of the filmmaking process, so a project which helps our industry capitalise on new technologies while exploring innovative ways to engage audiences is a perfect fit for us. By bringing together industry nous, entrepreneurial instincts and academic excellence this partnership is proving to be extremely exciting.”

Working with a range of budgets and varying international appeal, the slate aims to reflect the reality of independent production in the UK.  Leeshon Alexander, writer, producer and star of We Are Monster, said: “We Are Monster is a truly independent film. As such, we feel it’s not only important to be a part of such a study, but a fantastic opportunity to work closely with a progressive screen agency such as Film London and a sector innovator such as We Are Colony.”

Cecilia Frugiuele of Parkville Pictures, producer of Appropriate Behaviour and short film Some Candid Observations on the Eve of the End of the World also comments: “The international reach of the platform is also a way for producers and Sales Agents to be in control of their film’s destiny offering new ways to exploit a title without a traditional distributor.”

Appropriate Behaviour
Core to We Are Colony offers ‘special edition' VOD bundles, releasing quality films with a range of often exclusive additional and behind-the-scenes content. Franki Goodwin of Western Edge Pictures, who produced Third Star, adds: “For us, the opportunity to partner with We Are Colony to bring additional content to our fans, and in turn to support a fantastic new VOD platform, was a no-brainer. This is a huge opportunity for film makers to offer their audiences more than just a movie.”

In addition, the platform works hands-on with licensors in a marketing role, delivering content and creative, plus organic and paid marketing. Cecilia Frugiuele states: “We Are Colony is an empowering tool for filmmakers. It encourages them to think of audience engagement earlier in production, helping them shape their future distribution strategy.”

As part of the research phase, the We Are Colony platform will be trialing new windows, including an innovative pre-sale model where users pay early in exchange for instant fulfillment on extra content, ahead of general release. One title currently in pre-sales in the UK is Containment, and producer Christine Hartland states: “We’re thrilled to be partnering with We Are Colony for the release of Containment. We will be able to offer audiences a deeper experience of the film and a chance to engage in its world in innovative ways. As independent filmmakers we’re very aware of the crowded marketplace for indie British thrillers, and are excited about the possibilities of offering our audience more than just a conventional cinema experience. By connecting with audiences early and building their investment in the film, we intend to build a fan base even ahead of release”.

The report, lead by Prof. Philip Drake of Edge Hill University and researcher Michael Franklin, co-authored by the project partners, is due to release in Q4 2015.

The seven films
  • Appropriate Behaviour, the sexually-frank romantic comedy written, directed and starring Desiree Akhavan (Girls), produced by Cecilia Frugiuele, nominated in the Independent Spirit Awards 2014. The film was licensed from Peccadillo Pictures (UK), Gravitas Ventures (North America) and Transmission Films (Australia and New Zealand).
  • The British Guide To Showing Off, a documentary about the eccentric universe of the Alternative Miss World Show, directed by Jes Benstock and produced by Dorigen Hammond.
  • Third Star, a British road movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game, Sherlock), Tom Burke (The Musketeers), JJ Feild (Captain America), Adam Robertson and Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey), re-released internationally through the We Are Colony platform. The film was licensed from Independent Film Sales.
  • Electricity, an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ tale with a breakout performance by Agyness Deyn, directed by Bryn Higgins and produced by Clare Duggan. Licensed from Soda Pictures (UK).
  • We Are Monster, a British drama written, produced and starring Leeshon Alexander, directed by Antony Petrou, with producers including Noel Clarke (Adulthood, Kidulthood). The film was licensed from Metrodome Distribution (UK).
  • Containment, the high-concept British thriller with an ensemble cast including Lee Ross (The English Patient, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) and Louise Brealey (Sherlock), directed by Neil Mcenery-West and produced by Christine Hartland, Casey Herbert and Pete Smyth. The film was licensed by Vision Films (international sales).
  • Some Candid Observations on the Eve of the End of the World, a short film starring Theo Barklem-Biggs (Kingsman: The Secret Service, The Inbetweeners Movie) and Adrian Scarborough (The King’s Speech, Les Misérables).

Spectre tickets go on sale at 07.00 on 7 September

Cinema tickets for the new James Bond move, Spectre, will go on sale across the UK and Ireland, at 07:00 UK time on Monday 7 September. The film will open in the UK and Ireland on 26 October. For the first time ever, a Bond movie will open to the public on the same night as the World Premiere in London.

After debuting in the UK and Ireland, Spectre begins its rollout in territories around the world. The film will release in the US on 6 November.

Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond film, opening #1 in 70 territories around the world and earned over $1.1bn worldwide. Skyfall set a new all-time box office record in the UK by becoming the first and only film ever to earn over £100m, a record which remains unbeaten.

Peter Taylor, managing director, Sony Pictures Releasing UK, said: ‘The success of Skyfall proves yet again the enduring appetite of audiences for great stories from the world of James Bond. Spectre will enhance, continue and develop that world, and we are delighted to give audiences the opportunity to ensure they will be amongst the first to experience it by booking their seats in advance.”

In Spectre, a cryptic message from the past sends James Bond (Daniel Craig) on a rogue mission to Mexico City and eventually Rome, where he meets Lucia Sciarra (Monica Bellucci), the beautiful widow of an infamous criminal. Bond infiltrates a secret meeting and uncovers the existence of the sinister organisation known as SPECTRE.

Meanwhile back in London, Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott), the new head of the Centre for National Security, questions Bond’s actions and challenges the relevance of MI6, led by M (Ralph Fiennes). Bond covertly enlists Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw) to help him seek out Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), the daughter of his old nemesis Mr White (Jesper Christensen), who may hold the clue to untangling the web of SPECTRE. As Bond ventures towards the heart of SPECTRE, he learns of a connection between himself and the enemy he seeks, played by Christoph Waltz.

Sam Mendes returns to direct Spectre, with Daniel Craig reprising his role as 007 for the fourth time. Spectre is produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, from a script by John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth. It is an EON Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and Sony Pictures Entertainment movie.