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November 09, 1990 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1990-11-09

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Page 8 -The Michigan Daily - Friday, November 9, 1990

Since Taxi Driver's release,
Martin Scorsese's fulminating study
of psychopathic redemption in scum-
laden, grease-slicked New York has
been invoked as an example of vio-
lence in film and the influence of the
medium (note: John Hinckley). Yet
its best moments are either non-vio-
lent or merely allude to violence.
Travis Bickle's (Robert DeNiro) vi-
sion of the rain-smeared New York
City streets through the rhythmic
wiper blades of his cab, his fixation
on a bubbling glass of alka-seltzer
and his inarticulate need to "do
something" establish an odd, mes-
merizing inertia in the film.
In contrast, Travis' raw insanity
and the violence in general become

that much more astonishing.
DeNiro's performance is riveting -
rivaling even his portrayal of Jake
LaMotta in Raging Bull.
Travis, a straggly, boyish-look-
ing Vietnam veteran, suffers from
insomnia - thus his offer to work
"anytime, anywhere." Descending
into New York's less travelled by-
ways, Travis is overwhelmed by his
own cynicism, prejudice and bizarre
morality. His relationship with a
presidential campaign coordinator,
played by Cybill Shepherd, seems to
be his one salvation. But when
Travis brings her to a porn film, she
gives him back his Kris
Kristofferson album and bids him a
permanent goodbye.

Scorned, Travis turns to
"saving" teen prostitute Jodie Foster.
This obsession/martyrdom culmi-
nates in a scene of such stunning vi-
olence that Scorsese, in order to
avoid an X rating, had to tint the
film so the gore would be less
This is a film to be seen but not
- Gregg Flaxman
"You will experience some odors
that may shock you," prefaces a
well-trained technician at the start of
John Waters' 1981 suburban night-
mare Polyester, "but the producers
of this film believe that today's au-
diences are mature enough to accept

the fact that some things in life just
plain stink."
Like, for instance, overrated direc-
tors. Not John Waters, of course,
who is being honored this weekend
with an entire film festival of his
own over at the MLB. Unless, that
is, you are so un-hip that you don't
consider watching an overweight
transvestite eating shit entertainment
of the highest degree.
But seriously, Waters does de-
serve some credit because of his
complete disregard for any arbitrarily
assigned "community standards."
And he can even be pretty amusing
at times. Such is the case with
Polyester, which lies somewhere in
between the moronic crudeness of

Pink Flamingos (the late Divine per-
forming fellatio is definitely not
funny) and the shallow camp of Cry
Baby (Johnny Depp is definitely not
In Polyester, Divine blossomed
as an actress in her role as Francine
Fishpaw, a Baltimore housewife
with a few problems. Her hilariously
sadistic husband Elmer (David
Samson) is having an affair with his
secretary and callously promoting
his porn palace and its current fea-
ture, The Burning Bush. Her delin-
quent son Dexter (Ken King) has an
angel dust habit and a foot fetish,
and her daughter Lu-Lu (Mary
Garlington) is going through a typi-
cal teen-rebellion stage, needling her

mother with snide little remarks
like, "I'm getting an abortion and I
can't wait." Tab Hunter enters to
save the day as Todd Tomorrow,
owner of the local art film drive-i
and man of Divine's dreams.
Polyester lampoons everything
from alcoholism to people who
enjoy macrame. This film is actually
quite enjoyable, because Waters is
able to control himself when it
comes to jokes about bodily
functions. His later films can be
seen as the works of an artist who
either has matured over the years or
who has been emasculated dependin*
on if you are a John Waters purist Or
if you have some taste.
- Mark Binelli

- Mark Binelli




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