This year's reimagined New York Film Festival, with a mix of virtual and drive-in screenings for films from directors like Steve McQueen, Chloe Zhao, Frederick Wiseman, and Tsai Ming-liang, is now sharing a dose of irreverence, by way of the imitable John Waters. Waters designed this year's poster for the annual celebration of world cinema, and it's a throwback to the classic concert promotions from fellow Baltimore institution Globe Poster—and a tongue-in-cheek gift for cineastes.

"I think that humor is always the way to get through trouble," Waters told Gothamist in an interview.

The poster designed by John Waters, in collaboration with Globe Poster

Other artists who have previously contributed festival posters include Saul Bass (you might remember it from Peggy Olson's office), Roy Lichtenstein, Josef Albers, Diane Arbus, and Laurie Anderson. In his statement from Film at Lincoln Center, which presents the NYFF—and refers to him as a "filth elder"—Waters said of the poster design, "Since none of my films were ever chosen to be in the New York Film Festival, I was thrilled to be asked to design this year’s poster. I always knew I’d get my ass in there somehow! What better way to show my respect and irreverence for this prestigious event than to bring along Globe Poster, Baltimore’s famous press that promoted the best rock-and-roll shows all over America for decades? Trashy? Classic? Maybe it’s all the same in 2020 when we have to reinvent moviegoing itself."

The Multiple Maniacs, Pink Flamingos, and Hairspray auteur and bestselling-author was actually asked to design the poster before the pandemic. "I had no trouble getting this idea through," he said, offering that the team "immediately embraced it," Globe Poster concept and send-up of film snobbery and all. The posters, which will be for sale, are being both silkscreen-printed and letter-pressed on Cougar 130lb paper.

However, a more recent collaboration is a drive-in double feature that Waters has programmed for the New York Film Festival. They will show Gaspar Noe's Climax and Pier Paolo Pasolini's Salo, and Waters is hoping to "speak electronically through the drive-in speakers, like Cecil B. Demented" to moviegoers.

Like everyone else, Waters has been coping through lockdown, spending time in his "three holding cells"—a.k.a. his homes in Baltimore, Provincetown, and San Francisco. When asked about the current climate, he recalled a friend's "perfect description": "Terrifying and boring."

"Everyone is scrambling, everyone is trying to reinvent themselves," he told Gothamist during a phone conversation this morning, noting that he lost 32 speaking jobs this year. Unlike many of us, he hasn't been watching movies on his computer while isolating, because he feels it "diminishes" the experience of moviegoing. "I'm looking at my computer all day for work... It's like I'm living my life in a box, in a tic-tac-toe board."

"It's weird, because I write a column for ArtForum"—his annual Top 10 movies of the year—"and I have to find 10 movies I like. Usually, I have 20 and have to whittle them down, but this year, I've seen less!"

Which is why he loves the idea of presenting movies in a drive-in. He programmed a double bill of horror films for at drive-in at the recent Provincetown Film Festival (The Night of the Lepus and Kitten With A Whip), and is excited about his "art shocker" films at the 58th NYFF.

"This is something I parodied in Polyester"—his 1981 movie starring Divine and Tab Hunter—"an arthouse drive-in," Waters pointed out.

In the past, he has dreamed of people drinking champagne and wearing fancy clothes at a drive-in, and now "it's come shockers at the drive-in."

"This is probably the first time Salo has been shown in a drive-in!" Waters enthused. (Salo has been called "the sickest film of all time"; you can read the Wikipedia entry here.)

The 58th New York Film Festival runs between September 17th and October 11th, with a main line-up and numerous other sidebars, including a Spotlight section with Spike Lee's film of David Byrne's musical "American Utopia" and Sofia Coppola's feature, "On The Rocks," starring Bill Murray and Rashida Jones. The festival's schedule was just released; tickets go on sale on September 11th to the general public; Film at Lincoln Center members will be informed of early purchasing opportunities