What you think of the film director John Waters might depend on how you came to know him. Maybe you first saw his work “Hairspray,” a 1988 film with Ricki Lake as a plucky Baltimore teen fighting segregation. It was later the subject of a remake and also adapted as a bright and bouncy musical. Or maybe you know his earlier work, which earned him a reputation for depicting shocking things, like bodily functions, sex acts, and more.
One of those early movies, 1970’s “Multiple Maniacs,” has been restored. When it came out it was dubbed a “celluloid atrocity” by critics, and adored by others. The film will be shown Friday night at SIFF Cinema Egyptian in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.
John Waters spoke with 88.5’s Ed Ronco about the film, and his reputation.
On shock value: “An insult would be saying I was trying too hard. That’s why $100-million-dollar gross-out Hollywood movies aren’t funny today, because they’re trying too hard. It’s easy to horrify people. It’s easy to shock people. It’s much harder to make them laugh.”
On the restored version of ‘Multiple Maniacs:’ “It was 16mm; it was done with a hand splicer; there was dirt on it. At first, Criterion and Janus Films said, ‘Do you want us to restore every bit of dirt?’ and I said, ‘No! I never wanted it to look like that. Let’s make it look as good as we can.’ So now I’m really proud to say it looks like a bad John Cassavetes movie. There are little details in it I never saw before.”
On Seattle audiences: “Seattle has always been arty in the best sense of the word. It has an audience that always has gotten my sense of humor … I’ve spent a lot of time in Seattle and the audiences always seem to get exactly what I was doing. I never feel misunderstood in Seattle.”
On getting the part he always wanted: “I was in the last ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’ movie. I’ve always been obsessed by them. I remember in the cocaine years, I wanted people to start talking so much faster that they’d start speaking like the Chipmunks.”