Courtesy of the Tony Nourmand Collection
Known as the 'Sultan of Sleaze', John Waters (b. 1946) is notorious for his taboo-breaking films. Yet his work, unlike that of many exploitati directors, is recognized as being an intelligent, carefully observed commentary on society. His films may be gory, gross and extreme but they are infused with a savvy black humour. His uncompromising portrayal of aborti the Church, drugs, sex and perversi (which included images of transsex eating dog excrement) was instrume in redefining the boundaries of what was acceptable on screen. Waters' gritty approach to filmmaking has influenced a number of directors.
Waters openly admits that he himself was obsessed with violence and debauchery from an early age. He was given a camera when he was seventeen and used the opportunity to explore these facets of his own character in a creative way, beginning to make short films with his misfit friends. Waters' first feature film was Mondo Trashoi 1969) and he was arrested on obscenity charges before the premiere. This only boosted his reputation and after the release of Pink Flamingos (1972) and Desperate Living, his underground success was guaranteed.
Polyester marked Waters' first move into mainstream cinema. Only slightly less extreme than his earlier work, it still contained all the classic Waters trademarks. Polyester was originally shown in 'Odorama' - the audience were given cards to 'scratch and sniff' at appropriate points throughout the film. This sort of exploitation gimmick was borrowed from one of Waters' influences, William Castle. Polyester also featured a theme song by Chris Stein and Debbie Harry.
Tino Avelli (b. 1938) was born in Tripoli and moved to Rome, the epicentre of Italian design, after graduating with an art degree. He works in advertising and has designed film posters for almost all the major American studios. The poster for Desperate Living illustrates his particular skill in observing faces and expressions.
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