299 Great Directors: Paul Morrissey

“There’s Andy in his anti-Christ outfit. He’s the essence of passivity….he just isn’t there.”


Why This Director?
: I attended a Warhol exhibition and wanted to learn more about the films.

My Last Experience Was…: Nah.

What Did I Watch: The Joe Dallesandro trilogy: Flesh, Trash, Heat.

Where Does He Fit: Flesh’s sexual politics aren’t too clear at first, because we just stare at Joe as he sleeps while a song plays (think California Dreaming, but Hawaii style)…and then it’s revealed he’s naked. His girlfriend is kind of miserable, and the camera is cutting in a way that makes it very noticeable when it happens thanks to the flash and little fuzzy noise we hear for every jump cut that probably shouldn’t be there yet adds to the aesthetic. He’s trapped in an inarticulate world, working as a hustler to all sorts of customers and even to his girlfriend, who demands he fund a girlfriend’s abortion with his pay. Does he really want to do this when babies are what he relates to the most? He never seems happier than he does as he’s playing with an infant in the next scene, and they both possess a certain pristine beauty (and the same hairdo), but he goes out and hustles anyway, with advice ranging from the sublime to the stupid, and people of all sexual stripes explaining how they cope with it. What we forget is usually worth losing, and what we remember is the stuff that had an impact, so why not keep the senses of memory?

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Trash, meanwhile, is something harder and meaner than Flesh’s naturalism to the way life is when you need to have sex for a living. Joe Dallesandro’s still just as good looking as he was two years ago, but his hair is a little longer and his ass is a little more scabbed. Geri Miller gets to be the literal opening number instead of the centerpiece and thesis to the production, with Holly Woodlawn taking center stage as a…well. George Cukor did try and get her an Oscar nomination for a reason, let’s just say that. This feels more designed to appeal to gays looking for a campy spectacle, with the women having a harder time of it even as they get to be funnier, too. Dallesandro’s cock is always flaccid thanks to his drug problem, and everyone either hates that or wants to witness his own debasement. Woodlawn collects junk for people to pee in, and when she finds out who Joe’s been screwing behind her back despite his erectile dysfunction, she gets the sort of monologue that makes you wonder why she couldn’t have found her own John Waters to climb to the top of the pole for transwomen and drag queens (grouped together to higher levels then than now).

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Heat is nothing like the other two entries in certain ways, with the entire plot being a riff on Sunset Blvd., and thus Joe is an entirely different individual…a character, of sorts, rather than a void. I think the trilogy might not actually be a trilogy, but I suppose this could just be me trying to apologize with the lessened wit and increasing attempts at honest to goodness drama. Still a lot to savor here, though, with honest to goodness Academy nominee Sylvia Miles as the clear standout as the landlady who seizes onto her Norma Desmond part with relish, her Joe someone less capable of knowing better than getting involved but with less up for grabs.

heat

Most Valuable Asset: Despite the fact that he’s reportedly a Republican, he actually respects these kinds of people!? (Really want to know his thoughts on the election.)
Most Excited For: Blood for Dracula/Flesh for Frankenstein.

Coming Up Next: Japanese New Wave pioneer Yoshishige Yoshida.

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