Gone are the days when Hollywood's only concern was to put the movies up on the big screen. Now it's all about the marketing tie-ins, merchandising opportunities and the amount of drinks sold in the foyer. Could an artform be more openly commercial and conservative about its aims?
In the opening credits of his latest work, underground camp crusader John Waters sets out the hostile environment facing any genuine film lover. Multiplexes are stuffed with Star Wars and Star Trek sequels, a French classic like Les Enfants Du Paradis is finally presented dubbed without subtitles, and even The Postman 2 has a better chance of finding a screen than anythingborn outside the studios' grasp.
This is what Waters used to fight against with rough, guerilla-style movies like Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble. During the past 10 years he's edged closer to the mainstream, at least in terms of a more accessible visual style and storyline, as well as introducing bigger stars (Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Kathleen Turner) to his regular cast.
That's not to say that Waters isn't willing to bite the hand that feeds him, as is the case in Cecil B Demented. After tackling America's obsession with media murder trials and criminal celebrity (Serial Mom) and satirising the contemporary art world (Pecker), he's turned his irreverent eye on cinema itself with this twisted story of a bunch of film-making terrorists who brainwash a Hollywood star into joining their cause.
You can't help but draw several comparisons between Waters and the on-screen lead character (the title quotes from an old feature on Waters in an American newspaper), but this isn't autobiography. Cecil at one point wears an Andy Warhol wig, while his crew proudly brandish tattoos celebrating the likes of gay German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder and goremeister Herschell Gordon Lewis. Add in some blatant cultural sloganeering - "Power to the people and destroy bad cinema!", "Take back the screens!" - and what you have here is a chaotic yet none-theless heartfelt celebration of cinema's dedicated subversives.
Ever felt cheated by a Hollywood blockbuster? Then sign up with Cecil. Those in the know will love the way Waters sticks the knife into his targets, but the humour is maybe too insular to tickle the ribs of a wider audience.