Monday, June 25, 2018

Review: 'Female Trouble' Blu-ray

Dawn Davenport is a thief and a shit kicker and she wants to be famous, and that is exactly what she does in John Waters’s way out Female Trouble. Well, his third feature film is way out by most standards, though compared to Pink Flamingos and its relentless freak parade of atrocities, Waters’ follow-up film is almost quaint. 

In lieu of Flamingos’ genuinely shocking scenes of tuneful sphincters, flaccid blowjobs, chicken murder, and shit eating, Female Trouble has something closer to an actual story as Divine’s Davenport goes through the paces of a twisted Douglas Sirk picture. She’s a juvenile delinquent who runs away from home when she doesn’t get the cha-cha heels she demands for X-mas (who wouldn’t?), gets raped (by a male character also played by Divine, which may defuse the horror of mining rape for laughs for some viewers), gets pregnant, raises a nasty daughter she can’t even control by whipping her with a car aerial, finds stardom as a murderous performance artist, takes a bath in a crib full of fish, and gets the chair. 

With so much to sink his (he always identified as male) teeth into, Divine gives his greatest performance, though Mink Stole as Dawn’s bratty daughter Taffy comes close to stealing the show…as was her tendency. Female Trouble feels a bit overlong and a bit flimsy in comparison to the more audacious pictures that bookend it, but since it is not as polarizing as Pink Flamingoes or as bizarre or Divine-devoid as Desperate Living (my personal favorite of Waters’s early films), it is probably the best entry point for potential new fans before they move onto the director’s hardier and better stuff.

Last year, Multiple Maniacs was the Criterion Collection’s first entry in the John Waters collection, and it’s good to see that the best home video company out there is continuing its relationship with the guy a lot of cineastes consider to be one of the worst filmmakers of all time (he’s not; he’s just the filthiest). Criterion treats this trash like its Citizen Kane, cleaning up the image beautifully—the colors in the X-mas tantrum scene are spectacularly saturated—and piling on the supplements. Waters’s feature commentary has been ported over from the DVD edition, but there are also over two hours of extra goodies, including Dennis Lim’s new interview with Waters, Waters’s charming new interview with the actress who played Taffy as a little girl, and vintage interviews with Mary Vivian Pearce (who seemed somewhat bitter about her director’s demanding methods), casting director Pat Moran, and clothing and makeup master Van Smith. Additional bonuses include 15 minutes of outtakes (mostly musical montages) and 11 minutes of on-set footage with Waters’s commentary (mostly identifying the people in each shot) from the main feature and 17 minutes of Female Trouble-centric interviews and outtakes from Jeffrey Schwarz’s excellent documentary I Am Divine. However, the most substantial supplement is a vintage and very funny 32 minute roundtable discussion featuring Waters, Divine, Stole, and David Lochary.  

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