Female Trouble (1974):

Topping Pink Flamingos is a tall order, but puke poet laureate John Waters and scarlet diva Divine are more than game for the challenge in their riotous follow-up. This time their subject is one Dawn Davenport, whose existence, from school detention overture to electric chair curtain call, has been a search for the spotlight. Kicking things off with a titanic Christmas-morning fit after she doesn't get her beloved cha-cha heels, the plot follows Dawn through a skanky maelstrom. Raped on a mattress by a drooling molester (also played by Divine, sans drag, a literalization of "go fuck yourself"), she dabbles in go-go dancing and bum-beating before being discovered by the Dashers (David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pierce), decadent poseurs who see her as the embodiment of their Genetian maxim ("Crime is beauty"). Though the perversions are more seamlessly integrated into the narrative than in the earlier movies, Waters still grubbily zooms in on a particularly screechy line ("I wouldn't suck your lousy dick if I was suffocating and there was oxygen in your balls!") or someone's skid mark-happy underwear, not to mention the money shots -- acid-corroded Divine feverishly modeling while bleeding from a "liquid eyeliner" shot, Bad Seed brat Mink Stole gorily reenacting car accidents in the living room, Edith Massey's indescribably lumpy figure squeezed into a vinyl dominatrix getup. Yet Waters' subversion runs deeper, with his fame-obsessed heroine's transgression mirroring Warhol's credo about celebrity and, in the end, melting into ecstasy -- unlike the perfidious Dashers, whose dedication to filth is desexualized, antiseptic and ultimately false, Dawn dives into it face first, pushes it to its extremes and emerges exalted, a sort of perv Joan of Arc. With Cookie Muller, Susan Walsh, and Michael Potter.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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