© 1998 Fine Line Features

Pecker (1998)

There are a few more days left in this year, and a few more John Waters films I can get in before the year is out.

Although I mostly prefer Waters’ early “sickies,” Pecker is one of my favorites amongst his later films. It is difficult to separate the directors earlier films from his own life and attitude toward guerrilla art, recruiting his motley crew of friends to his “Dreamland Studios,” pulling up to a random Baltimore suburban house, filling Divine peeing on their lawn before driving off, screening the results in the basement of a local church. This was true independent filmmaking, and it was this combination of mad anarchy and enthusiastic dedication to film that made his career possible. Although Waters has not made films this way in a long time, he revisits the Dreamland spirit in this story of a sandwich shop worker who becomes the darling of the New York art world when his black and white photographs of Baltimore’s trashiest residents are discovered. It is hard not to think of this as at least somewhat autobiographical when we see Pecker stapling handmade flyers for his photo show up to telephone poles.

Edward Furlong could have done with a bit more charisma in the title role, but Martha Plimpton is hilarious as his sister who works at a gay strip bar, and speaking of stripping, in another fun moment we get to see Patricia Hearst, appearing as an art critic, stand on a bar and dance in her undies.

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