Cecil B deMented

This new John Waters movie is a madcap comedy about a young lunatic filmmaker, Sinclair Stevens (Stephen Dorff), known as Cecil B. Demented, and his gang of film fanatics, the ‘Sprocket Holes’, who kidnap a Hollywood star and force her to perform in their own underground movie. The setting is once again the director’s beloved home town of Baltimore, where pampered Hollywood icon Holly Whitlock (Melanie Griffith) arrives to attend the charity premiere of her latest movie, Some Kind of Happiness. She’s barely begun bitching about the arrangements for her visit when she finds herself with more to worry about than the colour of her limo. Cecil and his group take over the cinema and abduct Holly, all in the name of punishing bad cinema. Their plan is to shoot a guerrilla film which is the ‘ultimate reality’, using real people and real terror, and Whitlock is to play a leading role. These self-proclaimed keepers of the cinematic faith are a raggle-taggle bunch, all bearing tattoos of the directors they adore – Fassbinder, Warhol, Peckinpah, Preminger, et al – and all swearing allegiance to their leader, Cecil, the charismatic ‘prophet against profit.’

Cecil B. Demented follows the pattern of other recent Waters films in serving up large doses of camp humour and downplaying the excessive bad taste of the films that made his reputation in the ’70s (Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble). What’s interesting about the new film is its satirical view of radical extremism. The aptly named Cecil B. Demented is described in the press book as having ‘the charisma of Charles Manson, the style of Andy Warhol and the artistic temperament of Otto Preminger. He could only have been created by Waters, whose skewed vision of cinema and politics may be demented but is also very amusing.

U.S.A./France, 2000.
Dolby digital stereo.
88 min.

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