Iconoclast infuses light subversion into HERE!’s program mix
Filmmaker John Waters is curating 13 “Films That Will Corrupt You” for HERE! TV. As one might expect from Waters, his taste is eclectic. From “Freeway,” a re-imagining of “Little Red Riding Hood” done with a trashy Reese Witherspoon, to “Irreversible,” the shocking French rape and revenge saga, told backwards for maximum impact, Waters has found something to please and offend everyone—often at the same time. In a recent interview, the filmmaker discussed his excellent taste in films.
GARY KRAMER: What were your criteria for selecting the “Films That Will Corrupt You?”
JOHN WATERS: These films are beyond the rating system. My criteria was that they would be extreme movies—incredibly surprising and original.
GK: Any parameters about what you could not show?
JW: There was no actual penetration. There are cum shots and I think they are fake—I proved that they were. The hard-ons were fake, too.
GK: Why did you pick so many obscure films?
JW: I wanted to pick films that most people haven’t seen. I think that’s good, because if you’ve seen them, why would you watch the show? If you don’t live in New York or Los Angeles, you probably haven’t seen them.
GK: What decisions did you have to make about what films to program?
JW: I thought about showing “Crazy Love,” which is the greatest pimple film ever, but I [couldn’t] figure out a connection to gay sexuality, except maybe that gay men get pimples. “Clean, Shaven” is about a schizophrenic, but he’s cute and decorated his car well. I might show “Salo: 120 Days of Sodom” next season, but I didn’t want to show two Pasolini films. Marco Tullio Giordana’s 1995 “Who Killed Pasolini (“Pasolini, un delitto italiano”) will be screened.]
GK: How did you determine the sequence of the series?
JW: I tried to mix the films and put them in the order I’d want to show them to people. I wanted to have some comedies, foreign films… [mix] different genres.
GK: Who should watch these films?
JW: Anyone who likes movies. Anyone who likes good movies—films that change how you think about things. That’s why I go to the movies. I picked some films that were mostly connected to gay people. Gay people I like would like them. There are gay people I don’t like that wouldn’t like them.
GK: Did any of the films influence your work?
JW: “Fuego” was a huge influence on Divine’s character in my movies. Laura (Isabel Sarli) was Holly Woodlawn meets Dawn Davenport.
GK: Do you think people are adventurous enough to see some of the lesser-known films?
JW: I think [the French film] “Baxter” is an audience pleaser. The hardest ones are “Clean, Shaven” and “Irreversible”—which is really hard to watch. These films test limits of extreme cinema. [The experimental film] “Pink Narcissus” is a beautiful poem.
GK: What are some scenes do you think will corrupt/offend/shock/titillate viewers? And what are your favorite moments in the films you’ve picked?
JW: All those terms I mean in a delightful way. “Fuego,” when she goes out nude in a mink coat and [flashes] men ‘cause she’s horny. “The Hours and the Times”—when they dance to Little Richard. “Pink Narcissus”—anytime they show Bobby Kendall’s ass. “Irreversible”—it is that rape scene.
GK: Your comments about the film really whet one’s appetite for what you are about to see.
JW: Yes, I don’t give the film away. And I’m a human trailer for next week.
GK: Do you think these films will work as well on video/TV as they did in a theater? The opening shot of “Irreversible”— could make you sick in the theater—on TV will it be as effective?
JW: I re-watched all of the films on TV. Nothing takes the place of watching in a giant screen theater, but sometimes you don’t have a choice. And people are used to watching films at home on video. DVD, and cable now.
GK: Was there anything you wanted to show but couldn’t?
JW: “Boom.” I’m mad I couldn’t show it. Liz Taylor was mad I told her I love it, because she thinks I insulted her. I have the poster, the soundtrack, and the press kit in every language. It was a rights issue. Maybe they’ll reconsider.
GK: Do you have a favorite film in the festival?
JW: I don’t know that I have a favorite. I think “Irreversible” is the most astounding. [It replicates] what it’s like to get stoned, what it’s like to be drunk. You can only realize how great it is it when you see it for the second time.