TORONTO: John Waters, Front and Center in ?This Filthy World?

by Jen Yamato | Friday, Sep. 08 2006

Legendary filmmaker John Waters, aptly named the "Pope of Trash" years back, stars solo in front of the camera in "This Filthy World," screened at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival. As fans already know, Waters is possessed of a canny wit and a lifetime of experience mastering the art of trash cinema, both of which make this 86-minute stand-up routine a raucous event to behold.

Directed by actor-comedian Jeff Garlin, ?World? is simply staged because, well, its subject is fascinating enough on his own. Waters stands mid-stage, microphone grasped in both hands, entertaining his rapt audience of college students (and beyond the screen, his rapt audience of theatergoers) with autobiographical anecdotes nearly as crazy and just as funny as his own zany films. Any lesser host/subject might lose the viewer within five minutes, but the now-60-year old auteur is so vibrant, his real-life stories so audacious, that he rarely falters through the entire set.

Diehard followers will be pleasantly surprised to hear that all of the material in ?World? is new, although no number of subsequent views can make the mention of Divine?s infamous snack in ?Pink Flamingos? any less shocking or hilarious. Waters indeed runs through his entire filmic career (from 1964?s ?Hag in a Black Leather Jacket? on), shares his early influences (vaudeville, B-movie gimmick king William Castle, the Wicked Witch of the West), and touches on the politics of drugs, censorship, and sexuality.

Waters? spiel also serves as a sad reminder that the America that shaped his world view is long gone, the constraints of modern, commercial filmmaking at odds with the uneducated, fearless filmmaking that he has become known for. His encouragement to the audience to push boundaries is symbolized by the few props adorning the stage: on one side, a decorative vase; on the other, a set of trash cans.

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