Some American critics have grumbled that feel! 8. Demented is little more than a tirade. That might be a reasonable summary. but it‘s an unfair comment. It ignores a crucial quality: the film is also very funny.
Suggest to Waters that his film is bitter. however. and he looks genuinely surprised. ‘I don't think it is a bitter movie at all.‘ he counters. ‘If anything. I think it‘s making fun of independent movies just as much as Hollywood. about how everybody‘s so serious about it and how everybody has to be hip now and you have to have edge. What do I have to do'.’ What's left for me to prove? Do I have to die‘.’ Is that the only thing left to prove to the press that l have edge and credentials‘?’
Despite his denials. Waters clearly has been stung by recurring claims that he has gone soft. On the other hand. the director insists he has no interest in trying to go beyond what he did in the past.
‘After Pink Flamingos [featuring the infamous coprophagy scene] I realised it would be my competition forever. and to try to top that would be suicide.‘ he says. ‘lt would have been careericide. as Paul Bartel used to say. Even when Female Trouble came out. there were people who said. “sold out. huh?“ because no one ate dog shit.
‘lf Melanie Griffith did eat dog shit. of course. it would have been digitally-enhanced. It would have cost $20m for the shot and it wouldn't have been funny.‘
The feeling that taboos really were being broken is one of the things that gave Waters‘ early films their edge (he had naked ‘talking' anuses long before Jim Carrey repeated the gag with his trousers on). and sets them apart from today‘s gross-out comedies. If someone had got their testicles caught in a zipper in Pink Flamingos. the likelihood is the poor sod involved would have been made to do it for real.
Suggested rather than explicit grossness tempers (’eeil B. Demented; so no. you do not actually see a gerbil entering the rectum of Alicia Witt‘s porn actress in one of the film‘s funniest scenes. ‘Simply getting something that rude. that perverse. into an R-rated movie was what appealed to me.‘ says Waters. denying that he was censoring himself. ‘Also.
'Everybody’s seen a porno actress showing her ass-hole, but you haven't seen Alicia Witt acting as if a gerbil was up her
everybody's seen a porno actress showing her ass-hole. but you haven‘t seen Alicia Witt. who was famous for being in ('yliill. acting as if a gerbil was tip her ass. That’s funnier than the real thing. I think.‘
If that sounds like bad taste. Cecil B. Demented was born partly out of Waters‘ desire to make a film about ‘sexy terrorists‘. and can be seen as his ironic version of the Patty Hearst story (she has a cameo in the film as Cecil‘s mother). ‘I think terrorists are really cute and sexy.‘ he says smiling. ‘I knew about cults. I knew about terrorists. I knew about the movie business. So I put those things together and came tip with this fictitious criminal character that's been driven insane by movies. and his cult that would die to make movies.’
He adds: ‘Kids tell me they‘d kill to make movies all the time. “No you wouldn't". I say. I wouldn‘t either. But I thought a movie about somebody that could would hopefully be good for comedy.‘
Better for comedy than for box office it seems. as ('eeil B. Demented failed to make much of an impact in America. Surely he must be a little jealous of films like 'l'liere's Something About Mary and Scary Movie for having turned grossness into grosses? ‘l'm glad of their success. because it makes my life easier when I’m pitching my next movie.‘ he claims. ‘Also. I feel that it‘s a very. very different genre than I‘m working in. I make exploitation movies for art theatres.’
Finally. he says he reserves his jealousy for Hollywood and its uncanny ability to brainwash people into seeing their summer films. 'Hollywood is the real terrorist because we put every film business out of business in every country of the world. We have these big. bloated. m'er-produced movies that somehow audiences do not realise they have the option to dislike. I wish I could figure out how they do that. No one comes out and says. "I hated that“. They’re so hyped tip to see it that they don’t know they have that right to not like it. That is really good marketing.‘
Cecil B. Demented, GFT, Glasgow and Filmhouse, Edinburgh, from Fri 8 Dec. See review.
30 Nov—14 Dec 2000 THE “ST 19