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February 29, 1988 - Image 57

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1988-02-29

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John Waters." On the page he
intends more to amuse than to
shock, and he provides an ex-
hilarating introduction to the
underbelly of our culture. In an
essay on Los Angeles, for exam-
ple, Waters takes the reader to
the Spahn ranch, home of the
Manson family, and to the mu-
seum of filmmaker Russ ("Fast-
er Pussycat! Kill! Kill!") Meyer.
'Extreme items': Not surpris-
ingly, Waters has attracted an
unusual breed of fan. "They're
just so happy," says Waters, to
discover someone with the
same sense of humor. One ad-
mirer wrote: "I'm in high
school, and I make films like
you do. How come I get sent to
the school psychiatrist and you
get sent to Europe?" Another
shipped Waters an expensive
coffee-table book filled with lov-
ing reproductions of the big-
eyed Keane drawings. Yet an-
other sent ajar of dirt from the
lawn of mass murderer John
Wayne Gacy. Waters explains
that it's all in fun: "They're not

CAROL BERNSON
Kitsch and kin: The auteur and Divine at toy store
(above), Debbie Harry (second from left) and
Divine (second from right) on 'airspray'set

youth, when a TV teen dance show made
stars of the high-school set and all the kids
struggled to learn a new dance every week
to keep up. Paying tribute to movies like
"Diner" and "Grease," "Hairspray" deals
with an actual 1962 fight to integrate such
a show. Unlike "Polyester," this musical
comedy contains no gimmick, unless you
count casting-and, of course, Waters does.
Tacky is as tacky does: In addition to the
perennial Divine, rock star Debbie (Blon-
die) Harry and Sonny Bono play a married
couple. (He plants a bomb in her gigan-
tic beehive hairdo.) Eternal
starlet Pia Zadora-who in real
life is married to multimil-
lionaire Meshulam Riklis and
flew to the production in her
privatejet-portrays abeatnik,
as does Ric Ocasek, lead singer u
of The Cars. (Pia recites Allen Aby
Ginsberg's beat-poetry classic, of ma
"Howl.") The classic R&B sing- direct
er Ruth Brown plays the owner 10 ye
of a local record store. Look for such f
Waters himself in the role of an Metr
evil shrink. This awesome dis- cien"
play of tacky gives "Hairspray" guage
a special quality, but diehard movie
fans could be disappointed. lude
"Hairspray" is rather tame, "My
withnaryagross-out. "Au
Waters's broadest audience uptur
may eventually come from his put, a
print work. So far, he's written he pr
two books, "Shock Value" and
"Crackpot: The Obsessions of

frightening people." Not at all
like those who write the obsessive, menac-
ing letters he chooses to ignore. Waters adds
appropriate mementos to the collection of
"extreme items" in his Baltimore apart-
ment, including a full-size electric chair "in
the front hall right when you come in. So
you get my attitude. It really works with the
landlord."
Waters's face, at 41, looks as if it has aged
without maturing; so, too, seemingly, his
sense of humor. He told Re / Search maga-
zine that he celebrated his 40th birthday in
a senior citizens' activity center, which

SUDHIR-PICTURE GROUP
Singing for his supper: Stand-up comedy
friends decorated with caskets and wheel-
chairs. He jokes that someday he'll begin
penciling in his mustache in blue a la blue-
haired old ladies. And perhaps he'll become
even more respected. His mother tells him
now people come up to her and say, "Oh,
you must be so proud." "She says it's the
same people who 10 years ago used to say,
'You must be so ashamed.' It makes her
kind of angry," Waters observes with satis-
faction. Waters the auteur can afford equa-
nimity. "It's showbiz," he says with his
characteristic thin smile. "You gotta love
it. As long as you have fun with it and don't
believe any of it, you're guaranteed an
eventful life."
JOHN SCHWARTZ

werful Replay of a Tragic Memory

Revoir Les Enfants ("Good-
e, Children") is a return
ny sorts for French film
orLouisMalle. It'sbeen
ars since the director of
ilms as "Zazie Dans Le
o" and "Lacombe Lu-
has made a French-lan-
film. (His American
s during this time in-
"Atlantic City" and
Dinner With Andr.")
Revoir" also marks an
n in his creative out-
fter two years in which
oduced only a cable-

TV film. And it represents
Malle's reappraisal of what
he calls "the most tragic
memoryofmychildhood."
The year is 1944, and
France is occupied by Ger-
man troops. Julien Quentin
is a 12-year-old boy attending
a Roman Catholic boarding
school in a small town. When
a new pupil, Jean Bonnet, ar-
rives at the school, Julien is
puzzled by his eccentricities,
yet theybecome close friends.
Then the war intervenes to
shatter the atmosphere. The

Gestapo burst upon the
school and seize Jean and two
other boys-who are Jew-
ish-and the school's head-
master who has sheltered
them. The four are led away
to their eventual deaths.
Malle does a masterful job
of placing the naive school-
boys in a morally ambigu-
ous environment. This allows
tragic events to seem both
inconceivable and unavoid-
able. "Au Revoir" is a film of
subtle, undeniable power.
RON GIVENS

MARCH 1988

NEWSWEEK ON CAMPUS 35

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