Making it big

If, as Nigel Tufnell maintains, it really is a thin line between clever and stupid, then director Russ Meyer tightrope-walks that line. Without a safety-net.

His movies are all soaked in the same scuzzy kitsch. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is about a girl rock band running the gauntlet of sex and drugs on their way to stardom. Cherry, Harry and Raquel is a camp semi- western awash with sex and drugs. Up! is a modern detective story peppered with sex and drugs. Are you starting to get the idea?

In any appraisal of America's reliable tradition of cult film-makers, Meyer would feature heavily. His movies are widely regarded as little masterpieces of trash; they share a cast of preposterously busty dames. Like one of his closest artistic cousins, John Waters, Meyer has a voracious (you might say juvenile if you were feeling really mean) appetite for all things outsized and square of peg. If he has a defining sensibility it is this: big women are cool.

Waters remembers Meyers being a primary influence on his own life and work. "Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is, beyond doubt, the best movie ever made. It is possibly better than any film that will be made in the future. I first saw the film in 1966 at a local drive-in after being attracted to the radio ad that blared: `It will leave a taste of evil in your mouth.' " As only the best trash can and should.

Ryan Gilbey

The season `Russ Meyer: American Auteur' began yesterday at the National Film Theatre, SE1 (071-928 3232) and continues until 28 Feb