That whole shit-eating thing aside, the antics of the man born Harris Glenn Milstead—better known to filmgoers as gender-bending superstar Divine—are tame by today’s sledgehammer-licking standards. For the uninitiated, Jeffrey Schwarz’s docuportrait is a good primer on how this cinematic rebel helped make the world a safer place for outsiders. Through vintage clips and interviews, I Am Divine shows how the future John Waters muse transformed from an isolated, weird kid into an over-the-top, proudly freakish star who influenced everything from the aesthetics of first-wave punk to the performance style of today’s drag queens. If the film whitewashes the career plateau leading up to the star’s untimely death at age 42 (reverential testimonials and grin-filled photos feel too tidy for a life defined by messiness) Schwarz has still crafted a striking tribute to the pioneering spirit, radical queerness and sheer divinity of Divine.
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