Is ‘Pink Flamingos’ a Ten?
I finally watched John Waters’ Pink Flamingos this weekend (the Film Society of Lincoln Center has an incredible Waters retrospective going on right now) and when I came back home to rate it on IMDb, I encountered a conflict.
There is no way for me to logically give this movie a ‘1’. The movie is now more than 40 years old and its the centerpiece of a retrospective at the Lincoln Center. It’s the calling card for a filmmaker that any film fan knows by name. Watching the film for the first time, it’s amazing to think that 40 years have past and this is still one of the most daring movies I’ve ever seen. If this film was released, as is, today it would be wildly controversial. It’s also very funny. Some (most?) of the film is deeply unsettling so not all of the jokes land but there are a number of laugh-out-loud moments credited to sharp writing and game performances. There is just no way to justify giving the movie a bottom rating.
But rating the film anything in the middle seems ridiculous. Giving a movie this demented and ballsy something like a ‘6’ seems ludicrous. A rating like that is reserved for movies that just kind of fine. Or that had a problem that couldn’t be overcome. This movie doesn’t have that. Any problem I had with the film was also the point of the film. I had to look away from the screen no less than 4 times but that’s what Waters wants! He wants to challenge my expectations and gag reflex. The name of the retrospective is “How Much Can You Take?”
You could knock points off for a total lack of film making style but that becomes the style. It’s a movie about a people competing for the title Filthiest Person Alive. Isn’t this exactly what this movie should look like?
What am I left with? In 1997, when Pink Flamingos had its 25th anniversary, Roger Ebert refused to give the film a star rating, saying, “stars simply seem not to apply. It should be considered not as a film but as a fact, or perhaps as an object.” I tend to agree. But If I have to appease my own personal compulsion to catalog the movies I’ve seen by rating them on a web site (and I guess I do) then I’m left with a decision. A decision to which I think I know the answer. I’m just afraid to admit it.
But I’m only giving it 3/5 on Netflix. I don’t need Netflix thinking I want to watch a lot of movies like this.