Polyester: Scratch ‘n’ Sniff ‘Smelling is believing’
John Waters’ Polyester is being screened at FACT as part of Picturehouse at FACT’s Culture Shock season and Scalarama 2014, an annual celebration of cinema throughout the month of September.
5 September 2014
Scalarama’s motto is ‘Where there is a film and an audience, there is cinema’ and currently takes place in over 250 venues across the UK.
On the one hand you could say that Polyester is a film where ultimately the good guys win and the liars, cheats and money grabbers get what they deserve. But in reality, that diminishes everything that makes Polyester truly unique. This is not your average film and its far from your ‘run of the mill’ cinema experience…
Director, John Waters has often been quoted saying ‘if someone threw up at one of my screening, it would be like a standing ovation’ and that says a lot about his filming style and themes. With an accolade like ‘the prince of puke’ under his belt, Waters’ has spent most of his life and his entire career making bad taste into a true art form.
Francine Fishpaw (played by Drag Queen, Devine) lives the life of an average suburban housewife in Baltimore USA. However, her life quickly unravels as her family, one by one reveal their questionable lifestyles. Francine’s husband, Elmer owns an adult movie theatre and is having an affair with his secretary, Sandra Sullivan. Her self-centred daughter Lulu, gets pregnant by her punk boyfriend Bobo and her son, Dexter, is the notorious ‘Baltimore Stomper’. Francine’s only real friend is the delusional, hysterical, Cuddles Kovinsky, unforgettably played by Edith Massey.
After looking at Polyester and the story behind it, what I find interesting, is how technology has evolved to shape the cinematic experience. Today’s blockbusters utilise CGI and state of the art prosthetics, but John Waters’ ‘vision’ of cinema was different, its as if he thought, lets revel in the gross and disgusting but still keep people watching and wanting more. The Scratch ‘n’ Sniff cards were an excellent way to engage the audience making the cinema screen a lot livelier than usual.
Involving the sense of smell as part of the cinema experience was an old yet completely overlooked concept. It was first used for the film ‘Scent of Mystery’ in 1960 that used the exciting, cutting-edge (and soon to be extinct technique ‘Smell-O-Vision’). In essence, all of the Smell-O-Vision equipment, pipes etc. failed on the opening night of Scent of Mystery, audience members were greeted with the wrong smells at the wrong time and the film received negative reviews that lingered far too long, pretty much sealing Smell-O-Vision’s fate. Which may or may not have been a shame – I'll leave that one for you to mull over – or smell for yourself with Polyester’s Scratch ‘n’ Sniff.
Polyester will be screened at FACT on Wednesday 10 September, complete with Scratch ‘n’ Sniff cards. Tickets are available from the Box Office, by phone on 0151 902 5737 and online.