Review: This Filthy World

This Filthy World

John Waters the stand-up comedian isn’t nearly as funny as John Waters the director, but This Filthy World, recorded over two nights at New York City’s Harry De Jur Playhouse, is revealing, allowing the filmmaker to illuminate the evolution of his illustriously dirty career. Waters’s affection for the work of the Kuchar brothers, Kenneth Anger, and Jack Smith won’t come as a surprise to anyone intimately familiar with this flaming creature’s work. More interesting is the clash of anecdotes Waters unleashes, which validates his belief that humor should be every homosexual man’s terrorist weapon. A great story about dressing up like Captain Hook—using scotch tape, a coat hanger, and two of his father’s ties—culminates with a bad “walk the plank” punchline, but the director has always known that he’s a better instigator than executioner. Director Jeff Garlin, whose Curb Your Enthusiasm colleague Larry Charles recently did wonders for Sacha Baron Cohen, allows Waters to indulge his thrill for lobbing cherry bombs at the establishment. Waters is like a coach revealing his attack strategy to acolytes he hopes to entice into cultivating a film culture where making “instant movies” like the great The Diane Linkletter Story and a fantasy provocation like Manger Mama, about Mary eating her baby Jesus, is possible. For all his outlandishness, what’s most striking about Waters is his sense of proportion, and This Filthy World derives its greatest insight from a discussion about limits. After discussing how Divine “felt homophobic when she met Richard Simmons” and a family, after watching Hairspray, rented Pink Flamingos but couldn’t get past the halfway point, Waters casually reveals that he stopped watching Forrest Gump as soon as Forrest started running. Waters reminds us that we all have standards.

Score: 
 Cast: John Waters  Director: Jeff Garlin  Screenwriter: John Waters  Distributor: Red Envelope Entertainment  Running Time: 86 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2006  Buy: Video

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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