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'I Am Divine' Offers Insightful Portrait of Gay Icon and John Waters' Muse, Now on DVD/VOD

Photo of Ryan Lattanzio By Ryan Lattanzio | TOH! April 9, 2014 at 11:10AM

"I Am Divine," the largely crowd-funded documentary directed by Jeffrey Schwarz, chronicles the life of Divine, John Waters' muse who defined a generation of proto-punk films like "Pink Flamingos" and "Female Trouble," and famously ate dog doo-doo in front of the camera.
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Divine
Divine

"I Am Divine," the largely crowd-funded documentary directed by Jeffrey Schwarz, chronicles the life of none other than the Divine, John Waters' muse who defined a generation of proto-punk films like "Pink Flamingos" and "Female Trouble," and famously ate dog doo-doo in front of the camera. 

Beneath the fierce -- in the true sense of the word -- makeup and drag he was Harris Glenn Milstead. Divine was just a day job, he insisted, but he ended up getting pegged for that alter-ego throughout his career until his death at age 42. The documentary covers his struggle to be taken seriously as an actor outside the larger-than-life Divine persona, meeting John Waters and other gay folks in Baltimore and, of course, his love of drugs and partying. 

For Waters loyalists and Divine devotees, "I Am Divine" is pure pleasure start to finish. The talking heads-style doc features illuminating interviews with Waters, "Hairspray" co-star Ricki Lake (with whom Divine shared a rivalry on and offscreen), Mink Stole, Tab Hunter -- about whom director Schwarz is making his next documentary feature -- and several emotionally wrenching conversations with Divine's once-estranged mother.

In 2011, Jeffrey Schwarz directed "Vito" for HBO, another biographical doc about a gay icon, Vito Russo, who authored the seminal queer cinema book "The Celluloid Closet." "I Am Divine," which played to acclaim at SXSW, Frameline and other festivals, is a worthy successor to that film, and hopefully portends more honest queer portraits to come from the director.

This article is related to: Reviews, I Am Divine, John Waters, VOD, VOD/Streaming, New On VOD


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.