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statement elicits an easy laugh. But is it because we recognize the risible inappropriateness of Ramona’s manly ideal? Or is it a snicker of complicity, our collaboration with an insurgency against oppressive standards of maturity, suppleness, and intelligence? Cry-Baby is a classic comedy in its project of demolishing pretentiousness and sending Goodie Two-Shoes off walking, barefoot. Its Margaret Dumont is Allison’s priggish grandthe RSVP Charm School and propagates the Four B’s: Beauty, Brains, Breeding, and Bounty. She is flabbergasted by the uncouth, raucous, and grotesque company that Allison insists on keeping. Yet the Drapes are an inversion of the Squares, as self-righteous in their stuffed brassieres as the others are in their stuffed shirts. Rebellion has ossified into snarls, tattoos, and scarlet lipstick. Waters has been the Drape of American narrative filmmakers, the Pedro Almodovar of Maryland. Before Hairspray, his 1988 breakthrough to commercial success, he has made even David Lynch look square. But audiences in our plastic culture have learned to tolerate almost any offense but ennui, and it is harder to be shocked by Waters’s freak shows than bored by them. Because of the exasperating. tendency of open societies to assimilate their antagonists, he has become a rebel without claws. Divine is dead, and Cry-Baby lacks any transvestism. But it does feature a particularly unsavory scene of communal French kissing. As the camera closes in on soggy tongue kneading soggy tongue, Allison, reverting to squaredom, asks Cry-Baby: “I won’t get mononucleosis, will I?” The 1990 viewer will think of AIDS and how, if this is a joke, its taste is egregious. So, too, is the woman who is wheeled into a courtroom in an iron lung, railing at injustice and puffing on a cigarette. But, for all its loathsome caricatures, Cry-Baby does not so much offend as annoy. Much of its attraction is in the oddity of its casting Patty Hearst, looking almost as photogenic as Natasha Richardson playing Patty Hearst, is a doltishly saccharine mother, and her husband is played by David Nelson, in an effective facsimile of his late father Ozzie. The film features more than 35 songs, most written during the early 1950s, and most deserve the oblivion from which Waters retrieved them. Cry-Baby is the clownish story of disaffected youth, but it is likely to leave audiences largely unaffected. It offers a case of adolescent rebellion, when a single package would suffice. An effort to return to those leaden years when Commies and hormones were the national enemies and “juvenile delinquency” was the great domestic honor, Cry-Baby is less genuinely delinquent than it is juvenile. BRITISH DIRECTOR Peter Greenaway is more effective at unnerving his audiences because he is more meticulous at plotting his effects. His fastidious attention to color combinations in frames that are constructed like tableaux intensifies the revulsion. The Draughtsman’s Contract, the title of his 1982 film, might double as a description of Greenaway’s screenplays blueprints for a staircase into the abyss. Though he called his 1987 feature Belly of an Architect, Greenaway has the imagination of one, and, in his latest release, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, he redesigns his own arch style. Greenaway, whose last feature was called Drowning By Numbers, is the algebraist of contemporary filmmakers, and it is mathematical justice that his newest offering is rated X. In the opening scene of The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, a man is seized in the street and smeared with excrement. No one can renege on a debt to Albert away clean. Most of the film is set within his restaurant, a dining room that is as posh and elegant as Albert is crude and vile. Night after night, Albert holds court at one of the tables, slobbering over his exquisite food, bad-mouthing staff and guests, and abusing woman says something that upsets him, Albert impales her cheek with a fork. Not since Marco Ferreri depicted a group of wealthy men gorging themselves to death in La has a film used ingestion so well as an index to character and the cosmos. A stranger at a nearby table catches the eye and the fancy of Georgina, and the two slip away frequently for silent sexual trysts in a restroom or the kitchen. When Albert, who is as possessive toward his wife as he is toward the butchered carcasses hanging in his pantry, discovers Georgina’s infidelity, he does more than hurl feces in the face of the offenders. Georgina’s brilliantly conceived and handsomely executed act of revenge against Albert is the movie’s piece de resistance, a Shallow Waters A Less Than Divine Effort BY STEVEN G. KELLMAN CRY-BABY Directed by John Waters THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE AND HER LOVER Directed by Peter Greenaway I LOVE YOU TO DEATH Directed by Lawrence Kasdan IT IS hard to know what to make of CryBaby, John Waters’s 11th film, because it is never entirely clear what the perpe trator of Pink Flamingos, Mondo Trasho, and Polyester has made out of the genre of teenage-rebel film. A climactic game of chicken in speeding cars recalls Rebel Without a Cause, but, like a flustered Chrysler dealer, one has trouble determining just why it is being recalled now. Is this mockery, veneration, or simply a premise that developed a mindlessness of its own? Set in Baltimore in 1954, Cry-Baby is the musical love story of two teenagers from vastly different social worlds. Allison Verwealthy “square,” and Wade “Cry-Baby” prole who rides a motorcycle and sings rock ‘n’ roll. Both are orphans. Allison lost her parents when the separate planes they boarded –to minimize family risk crashed simultaneously, while Cry-Baby’s father was The Alphabet Bomber, a notorious killer executed, along with his wife, in the electric chair. “I’m so tired of being good,” says Allison shortly before dumping her stuffy taking up with Cry-Baby, whose facial trademark is a single teardrop frozen above his cheek. Allison unleashes her pony tail, dons skin-tight sweaters and embraces badness, or at least Cry-Baby, who in fact is not nearly as bad as misunderstood or as the film. “Drapes are people too,” declares Allison solemnly. “They just look different.” Such remarks have to pass for profundity, but I wish that profundity would pass for itself. “Milton, you’re everything a man should be young, tough, and stupid,” coos Ramona, Cry-Baby’s rough and raffish grandmother, to his leather-jacketed friend. Milton is, indeed, young, tough, and stupid, and the Steven G. Kellman is professor of comparative literature at The University of Texas at San Antonio. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21 <, .4.011Ft :