Related Articles: Movies, All

Waters steals back the spotlight with Cecil B. Demented

John Waters seems to be scooting into his role as one of the founding fathers of punk cinema with rosy-cheeked humor. Some say he sold out when Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble spawned Cry Baby and Serial Mom. I thought he lost his touch with Pecker -- I walked out of the theater totally annoyed by everything except the little sugar-addicted brat. And how any director could make Lili Taylor into a bad actress is beyond me. But everyone's allowed to screw up, right? And Cecil B. Demented proves, thankfully, that Pecker was just a fluke.
We first see Cecil (Stephen Dorff) as he leads a pack of renegade theater .ployees preparing to hold up a glitzy Baltimore movie premier/charity benefit and kidnap Honey Whitlock (Melanie Griffith), the visiting starlet-cum-bitch from hell who represents all that they despise about Hollywood and its minions. The walkie-talkies and guns do the trick, and the spirit of their cinema revolution sweeps Miss Whitlock and her silicon-stuffed contours into their getaway van. Then the mutiny begins. Cecil's motley followers (Lewis, Lyle, Dinah, Cherish, Fidget, Chardonnay, and others, all with tattoos of mutinous auteurs like Fassbinder, David Lynch, and Sam Fuller) cut, dye, stretch, pull and burn until they end up making Honey look like a hip, homeless Baby Jane. The whole idea--one of Cecil's many proclamations of pure, maddened genius--is to force this pampered diva into a guerilla-style film without body doubles and catered lunches--a true piece of kamikaze cinema that puts a boot in the face of big budget productions once and for all.
They leap out of the van and storm commercial theaters, put guns to people's heads to get out a good performance, and torment the nice, conservative citizens of Baltimore. At first, Honey screams for her agent because she has to watch Cecil and friends try and get off by rubbing up against cameras and light poles (they take a vow of chastity to prove their dedication to the film). As the days go on, though, she mellows out and starts to see their side of things. As she sips martinis after a hard day's shoot, Honey and her bleached out hair get to like Cecil and his demented devotees. Screw Hollywood! This is blood, sweat, drugs, and anarchy filmmaking! What could get an artist's blood pumping faster than that? So Honey's in, and she's giving the best performance of her career.
Cecil B. Demented is basically Waters's tribute to truly independent filmmaking. Any movie buff (and no, I don't mean those people who have seen Forest Gump 85 times) will revel in the celluloid references, fascinating facts, and the absolute love of cinema that oozes out of this movie. At a time when "indie" could refer to just about anything that doesn't star a tidal wave or a meteorite or Demi Moore, Cecil celebrates the fearless, fucked-up artists that are still motivated by deeper forces than words like "Oscar-worthy" and "A-list."