Watched the DVD of John Water's Pink Flamingos, last seen at a midnight showing sometime in the mid-eighties in NJ. Much of the intensely particular feel of the film comes from the spontaneous nature of the shooting, and the way the monetary constraints were handled in the production, and may explain why his later movies retain the charm but lack the poetic of this period. The use of a single, appropriated camera and rescued film stock, combined with the odd and hilarious mixtures of hand-make/thrift shop set design and wardrobe combine to form some very strange color schemes and textures. There's a particular feel for wall paper in the movie. The repeated long single-shot scenes come from the constraint of only having one (stolen) camera. The effect created successfully combines several odd elements-- especially a feeling that everything in the movie, regardless of setting, is somehow actually taking place on a high school multipurpose room stage. This coexists with a Night of the Living Dead horror/documentary realism effect, and this binary defines the film's poetic. The acting also style fuses odd but effective elements -- amateurish but absorbing, intimate but artificial, gross but somehow touching.
The famous scene of the burning trailer where the camera perversely lingers over the flames is explained away by Waters in the commentary track as "bad editing," but there's something that he's missing about his own film here. There is a dynamic of inclusively which depends upon the overall equation of rough on-the fly production, perversity, humor and pathos, and this inclusiveness allows this fire scene, which would otherwise bring everything to a screeching, incongruous halt, to actually work in the overall rhythm of the film. The flames, clearly out of control of the under-prepared filmmakers, take on a beautiful hyper reality that actually harmonizes with the angry, pre-punk rebelliously anti-social creative energy that the director and cast channel into in the project. It also harmonizes with the poetics of fixation that are so clearly a part of Waters' approach.