A touch of camp: The charm of being over-the-top
What is camp? Dictionaries define it as «an aesthetic sensibility that regards something as appealing or humorous because of its ridiculousness to the viewer». True enough, camp does embrace a sense of extravagance, an artificiality, something that’s unintentionally funny but at the same time good-natured, innocent, impulsive and out of the box. A camp film can almost look like a failed recipe. It’s like trying to make eggs sunny-side-up and ending up with an omelet. They might look a little different, but they still taste good all the same.
With the passage of time, camp built its own celluloid history, gained a faithful following and even inspired a brilliant journalist and writer like Susan Sontag to defend it with all her might, emphasising its key elements as «artifice, frivolity, naive middle-class pretentiousness, and shocking excess». It also happened to present one of the biggest aesthetic contradictions of all time: although a film never started out to be camp but often ended up that way – usually when something went terribly wrong – a lot of filmmakers took advantage of this excess of bad taste to earn their work a characterisation no one would normally want.
And although it’s a far cry from Jane Fonda’s intergalactic hussy in «Barbarella» to Carmen Miranda’s over-the-top headgear in Busby Berkeley musicals, packing more exotic fruit that your average farmer’s market, and from Ed Wood’s beautiful monstrosities to Doris Day’s pink fluffy clouds or - god forbid - Raquel Welch’s transsexual antics in «Myra Breckinridge», all these films have something in common: they discover pleasure where there should only be shame, they are amused with aberration, enjoy a good misfire, embrace flamboyance and filter cinema through a distorting lens and a quirky sense of humor. The Athens International Festival is proud to present five prime examples of the camp persuasion, a saucy subgenre that’s absolutely delicious.