John Waters: It isn’t Very Pretty, BFI Southbank, London

Featuring a night with John Waters in conversation with BFI season curator Justin Johnson, the Institute is celebrating 50 years of films from the legendary film director who shot to fame with cult hits such as Pink Flamingos (1972), Female Trouble (1974) and Hairspray (1988) and blockbusters including Cry Baby (1990) and Serial Mom (1994) starring Johnny Depp.

Screening what the BFI has described as “every goddamn one” of his films, the series will also include Waters’ very earliest film projects: his previously unseen short films from the 1960s, which will be on show free of charge. Furthermore, the series offers an insight into Water’s influences as he has chosen six British films for a side-series entitled Teabaggin’ in the Kitchen Sink: My Favourite British Films which includes Joseph Losey’s Boom! (1968) and Roger Michell’s The Mother (2003).

John Waters has been creating films since his Baltimore teenage-hood, his work pushing the boundaries of taste and earning him the nicknames of “The Pope of Trash” and the “People’s Pervert,” and often incorporating the like-minded creatives that called themselves the Dreamlanders – Divine, Mary Vivian Pearce, David Lochary and Mink Stole. This eclectic cast are included in all of Waters’ early underground films, which are both juvenile and genius, and will be shown at the BFI in compilation form as John Waters: The Early Shorts.

Waters’ first feature-length film, Mondo Trasho (1969), drew on the timely influences of Andy Warhol in its artistic style, followed by increasingly bloodthirsty, sexual forays into crime, corrupted fame and even the façade of the suburban housewife. Cry Baby, a teenage romantic comedy of sorts, is one of Waters’ best-known films for its cast including Johnny Depp, Iggy Pop, Ricki Lake and Amy Locane, which follows Depp as the 1950s rebel Wade Walker and leader of the “drapes” gang. Using Waters’ hometown as its backdrop, the “drapes” cause havoc in Baltimore as Walker finds himself striving for the attentions of Allison; a square.

A gentler film than much of Waters’ repertoire, Cry Baby is shown alongside well-known pieces such as Multiple Maniacs (introduced at the BFI by John Waters), which brought to light “Lady Divine’s Cavalcade of Perversions” – a group of sleazy, unruly criminals whose thirst for blood and violence is unquenchable.

Offering a full retrospective of one of film’s most shocking and versatile directors, this season promises to thrill, inspire, educate and most certainly shock.

John Waters: It isn’t Very Pretty, 1 September – 6 October, BFI Southbank, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XT.

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Credits 1. John Waters, Courtesy of BFI.