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review added: 6/20/02



Divine Trash
1998 (2000) - Independent Film Channel (Fox Lorber)

review by Adam Jahnke of The Digital Bits

The Films of John Waters on DVD

Divine Trash

Program Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C+/B/D-

Specs and Features

96 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.66:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep-case packaging, filmographies, production credits, weblink, animated program-themed menu screens with music, scene access (8 chapters), languages: English (2.0 Mono), subtitles: none

It's easy to see why John Waters would be an attractive subject for documentary filmmakers. With his pencil mustache and instantly recognizable voice, he's an extraordinarily charismatic filmmaker. His favorite muse was a 300-pound drag queen who looked like Elizabeth Taylor from Mars. And then there's the little matter of his movies. Love 'em or hate 'em, nobody else before or since has made anything quite like 'em. Steve Yeager may have been the first person to realize the potential for a movie about Waters. Back in 1972, he hooked himself to the production of Pink Flamingos, shooting interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, as well as appearing as a member of the press during the climactic "courtroom" scene. In 1998, Yeager took this footage, conducted a number of new interviews, and produced Divine Trash, a fairly comprehensive overview of Waters' career up through Pink Flamingos.

The backbone of the movie, of course, is the rare footage. In addition to the backstage glimpse we get at Pink Flamingos, Yeager also utilizes scenes from earlier movies like Multiple Maniacs and The Diane Linkletter Story. These movies have remained out of circulation for years, so it's of great value to finally get a peek at something we've heard so much about. Of the new interviews, only those with Waters and his friends, family and collaborators are of much interest. Yeager also includes appreciations by folks like Steve Buscemi, Jim Jarmusch and David O. Russell (director of Three Kings). Maybe he did this to pad out the running time, maybe to justify a documentary on the "shock auteur" to his financial backers or maybe just to add some "star power". Whatever the reason, the appreciations are added at odd points in the movie, distracting from what's most interesting.

Fox Lorber has released Divine Trash on DVD and, as with most titles I've seen come from the studio, this is a pretty no-frills, bare-bones release. The picture is grainy and full of digital artifacts, particularly during the new interview segments. If you're unimpressed with New Line's transfer of Pink Flamingos, check out the footage here to see how bad this movie could look. The sound is utilitarian at best. Talking head interviews and 16mm footage from the late 1960's and early 70's don't exactly lend themselves to sonic brilliance. There are basically no extras to speak of, except for filmographies for Waters, Divine and Yeager.

Essentially a feature-length "making-of" documentary, Divine Trash is of interest to those who want more information on Pink Flamingos. It makes an interesting companion to New Line's John Waters DVD Scrapbook, the bonus disc available to purchasers of Volumes One through Three of The John Waters Collection. While there is some inevitable overlap between stories told on the two discs, there is very little duplicated footage. The film might have been better served if Yeager had sold the rights to New Line for inclusion as a bonus on their DVD of Pink Flamingos instead of as a stand-alone feature. As a bonus feature, Divine Trash would have seemed more than generous. On its own, it's a little wanting.

Adam Jahnke
ajahnke@thedigitalbits.com

The Films of John Waters on DVD




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