Revelation Film Fest Watch: "I Am Divine" Review
“But don’t forget, I am Divine!” is one of many truly memorable quotes from John Water’s 1972 cult masterpiece Pink Flamingoes, a film that is arguably still today the most memorable work of both Waters and the late great Divine. I am Divine is loving tribute of a documentary that takes a look at the life and career of Harris Glen Milstead, better known by his stage name, Divine. A man, who lived a life of excess, loved to act and perform and as we learn from this documentary, became hugely successful in his short forty two years of life despite his unique and still rather controversial nature.
I am Divine is a biopic that takes us chronologically through the life of the overweight drag queen, a man who one woman calls “A cinematic terrorist.” I had waited a long time for this documentary as I am huge John Waters fan. For those who do not know, John Waters is a cult film director who has lovingly been referred to as the pope of trash, a term given to him due to the nature of his films, often cheesy comedies consumed with ideas of trash, filth and everything offensive or deplorable. I am Divine is so wonderful for a fan of these films because not only does it feature plenty of clips and behind the scenes footage but also interviews with John Waters and all the other remaining members of Dreamland (John Waters film making team, which Divine was a large part of). However for those who are unfamiliar with John Waters or Divine I’m sure the documentary will still be very entertaining and rather interesting. It makes no assumptions at any point that the viewer will have a preexisting awareness of Divine or Waters and so it explains his life in a very simple and logical way.
The story of Divine is a strangely inspiring and interesting one for any viewer. A man who spent his life completely on the fringe of society. Even in the underground society of drag queens Divine was an outcast. In the early 1960s drag was mostly confined to underground balls, where feminine men would dress up in beautiful and elegant dresses and there would be a vote for the most fabulous, the whole thing was taken rather seriously - that is, until Divine stepped in, overweight and scandal clad.
Divine realized the ridiculous nature of androgyny and so chose to mess with it, terrorize it if you will. He would later take this to extremes in his early films with Waters, films that have the same sense of anarchic ridiculous humor. In these films Divine was raped by a lobster, gave her son a blow job, killed everyone and most famously, actually ate dog shit. As the film lovingly demonstrates with its use of archival footage and photos displayed in the style of Ken Burns, all of this was done for fun, the love a good shock and a good time.
However, this shocking and extreme persona would take Divine far and we learn that not only did he become Waters muse but he also performed many huge plays off Broadway, had his own show which took him around the world, recorded one of the first ever successful disco albums and he even went on to appear on stage with the likes of Elton John.
I went into watching I am Divine with the assumption that I would see a fun documentary about the films I love but I found much more. I am Divine is a surprisingly inspiring film about one of the world’s biggest freaks and how he was able to use that to his advantage and truly live his life to the full without any apologies. A near perfect biopic.
Session times: (only 2 sessions available, so get your tickets ASAP!)
Mon, 08, Jul, 2013 07:00 pm @ Cinema Paradiso
Sat, 13, Jul, 2013 11:00 pm @ Luna Leederville
Watch this space for more Revelation Film Festival coverage