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Thursday, 28 June 2018

On Blu-ray - David Hare relishes a new 4K Criterion edition of John Waters FEMALE TROUBLE

Happy and obscene Family Snaps from what has always been for me John Waters' crowning achievement, Female Trouble released in 1973, and still going strong with this elegant and voluptuously bonused new 4K transfer on Criterion Blu-ray. 
The only concession Waters makes to modern taste this year is to give all these originally 16mm full camera aperture early Baltimore epics the "modern" twist of minimal widescreen with a 1.66 ratio mask. I recall seeing this originally on first Oz release in Adelaide mid-1976 at a then fleapit, the Roma in Hindley St when then indie distrib Eric Dare brought it in to debut Waters to an unsuspecting public. Pink Flamingoes which accompanied it to the censor's office was banned outright and remains so but somehow, "mysteriously", a complete, uncut VHS tape copy of it started doing the rounds ca. 1983 and despite subsequent re-banning of that fragrant work, the source still survives. 

Female Trouble  is surely a supreme Valentine to the matchless Divine, and her alter ego, Glen Milstead. Indeed, this picture features both personae in a single scene depicting Divine's rape by herself (as Milstead with a rear shot showing his skid marked underpants humping up and down, an image which poetically evokes a modern day parallel of what Trump is doing to America). This of course leads to the inevitable birth of their half-witted baby, Taffy, in a bathtub, played at later ages to the dysfunctional hilt by the great Mink Stole. 
Indeed, further, the Gang's All Here including Edith Massey, and a young Michael Potter whose death defying singing asshole sequence in Flamingoesis probably one of the three things that keeps that picture banned in Oz. Everybody who was anybody in the Baltimore pre-punk Trash scene is in this picture. And the sensibility of total defiance to bourgeois hypocrisy and morality holds strong, a perfect position, I suggest for contemporary American youth who are seeking ways to give Trump and the American Establishment the giant "fuck you". 
I was always sorry to see Waters go soft, after Polyester. But we all grow older if not wiser, and he certainly donates hours of very recently recorded commentary, interviews and fun to this colossal disc. Almost as Colossal as the great Dawn Davenport herself.

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