Cecil B Demented
Directed by John Waters
Starring Melanie Griffith, Stephen Dorff, Mink Stole, and Patty Hearst
Ars gratis ars. Art for art’s sake. Not for money. Not for fame. Not even for mom. Bad boy Cecil B Demented (Dorff) and his band of self mutilating set designers, drugged out prop masters, and satanic hairdressers is out to demolish the bad old Hollywood system and replace it with… um… well… suicidal film school dropouts. He has a script, he has a caterer, he has a drug wrangler, and now all he needs is washed up star Honey Whitlock (Griffith). Honey’s in B’more to open her new life-affirming film. While Cecil’s crew chants “Hey Hey Mr. MPAA — how many films did you censor today?,” they pull off an audacious kidnapping. Not even Honey’s agent can save her now. Trapped with a crew deprived of even the basest sexual release, the Honey makes a film so bad people would walk out if they were on an airplane. Honey eventually comes around to the dim side, and while her acting doesn’t get any better, her career takes off as she shoots up a Patch Adams revival, the Maryland film commission dinner dance, and a remake of Forest Gump. Eventually she sets herself on fire for her art while the rest of the crew gets it on and gets shot up by the cops at the wrap party. It moved me to tears.
Part autobiography, part internal fantasy, Demented reveals more about Waters than the evils of big budget films shot in focus with good lighting. From the de rigueur mocking self reference (licking the cameras to curse them) to subtle references to other movies (Cecil’s bed looks a lot like Duran Duran’s nest in Barbarella), Waters began by making films for love and not money, and seemed offended when “his” sex and violence was co-opted by the majors. What’s an auteur to do? Well, when logic and reason fails, and they checked for weapons at the door, only satire remains. And this satire seems aimed at both the pretensions of those wacky Dogma 95 Danes and the ultra cinema verite of The Blair Witch Project — if you can’t bring down the opponent, spray paint all over his new Mercedes. And don’t forget to show gerbil stuffing. After all, you have cinematic immunity — none of you’re earlier films count.