Things caught recently on video or in rerelease...
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last update 27.Jul.05
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Flesh   3.5/5
This astute examination of life in late-60s New York has a raw authenticity about it that really grabs us. The hippy-druggy subculture is on screen with almost startling realism, combined with a sharply absurd sense of humour that actually makes it effectively emotional.
  It's a day in the life of the street hustler Joe (Dallesandro), who lives with his wife (Smith) and child, and today must raise money to pay for an abortion for his wife's lover (D'Arbanville). Along the way he poses for an aging artist (Braddell), spends time with a gym bunny (Waldon) who adores him, hangs out with a stripper (Miller) and a couple of drag queens (Darling and Curtis). And since he's so beautiful, everyone naturally wants him to be naked.
  Joe is such a relaxed, nice guy that we can't help but like him. He's completely unbothered by the way everyone seems to worship his flesh, even if they want something from him. Because he has his own motivations as well, and the concluding scenes with Smith and D'Arbanville are sweet, funny and startlingly telling.
  Writer-director Morrissey uses a rough, almost documentary style, letting the actors improvise rambling scenes that actually examine the issues--body worship (the camera absolutely loves Dallesandro), hustling, sexuality, working out, cosmetic surgery, drugs. The bracingly relaxed tone feels far ahead of its time, as does the rough editing style (the film feels like it was cut with a butter knife and spiced with duct tape). Some of it feels a bit repetitive and indulgent, but there's always a point to it; none of the conversation is irrelevant, even though several scenes drag on and feel rather dull. But the way Morrissey keeps things natural and real is both bracing and important. And compelling.
dir-scr Paul Morrissey
with Joe Dallesandro, Geraldine Smith, Patti D'Arbanville, Candy Darling, Jackie Curtis, Geri Miller, Louis Waldon, Maurice Braddell, John Christian, Barry Brown
dallesandro and smith release US 26.Sep.68,
UK 25.Jul.05 dvd
68/US Factory 1h30

Note: Before July 2005, the Warhol/Morrissey/
Dallesandro films
were never available
uncut in the UK.
18 themes, language, nudity
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Trash   4/5
There's a hilariously camp tone to this rather depressing drama about drug addicts in New York. Morrissey is skewering a society in which people want something for nothing, and the result is a strikingly odd and important film.
  Joe (Dallesandro) is a junkie who'd rather have another hit than have sex. Not that he's physically capable of having sex anymore. His stripper friend (Miller) tries her best to get him interested, as does a rich girl (Feldman) looking for drugs, and a middle class bimbo (Forth) who bickers with her new husband (Pecheur) while Joe ODs on the floor. Meanwhile, Joe's flatmate (Woodlawn) has concocts scams involving her homeless, pregnant sister (Podel) and a naive teen (Putnam) in search of drugs; but it's a welfare investigator (Sklar) who crosses the line.
  The film consists of a series of outrageously gripping set-piece sequences, often involving three characters. It's impossible to choose the most striking one; all of them are simply jaw-dropping in their combination of arch comedy, razor-sharp satire and low-life drama. The most unforgettable scenes involve Woodlawn, who gives a full-on performance that simply defies description! And Dallesandro is transparently real as the young man whose focus is so singularly on drugs, even though he remains a nice, easy-going guy who's happy to please the people he meets in any way possible. Usually they still want him naked.
  Morrissey obviously has a bigger budget here than he did on Flesh. The production design is much more polished, and his editing style takes on a professional quality that's even more effective. The story is much stronger, and he coaxes more expressive performances from his improvisational ensemble. As they examine issues of sex and drugs, the welfare state, the fact that society is full of bad news for poor people. And through the scene structure, he creates astonishing dynamics between his characters on screen. Much of the film is blackly hysterical. And for a film about life on the sleazy edge of society, the film looks gorgeous, crabs and all.
dir-scr Paul Morrissey
with Joe Dallesandro, Holly Woodlawn, Geri Miller, Jane Forth, Bruce Pecheur, Andrea Feldman, Johnny Putnam, Michael Sklar, Diane Podel, Rob D'Alessandro, Sissy Spacek
forth, dallesandro and pecheur release US 5.Oct.70,
UK 25.Jul.05 dvd
70/US Factory 1h50
18 themes, language, drugs, nudity
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Heat   3.5/5
Continuing his examination of fading society, Morrissey turns to fame and travels from New York to Los Angeles for this outrageously funny but almost painfully sharp comedy.
  Joey (Dallesandro) is a former child star whose moment in the spotlight was a TV series called The Big Ranch. He can't even afford his low-rent apartment, so he offers sexual favours to his tarty landlady (Ast). Then he realises that a slutty neighbour (Feldman) is actually the daughter of one of his former costars (Miles), who lives in Hollywood Hills luxury. More sexual favours get him firmly ensconced with her, and might possibly revive his career. But probably not.
  The film has a hilariously tortured plot that feels like a porn movie ("Gee, the rent here's kind of high"; "Well, you'll have to pay your rent every night then ... oh, Joe!"). Combining the torrid situations with such desperate characters, it's so much fun to watch that you never want it to end, right up to the gonzo climactic twist on Sunset Blvd. Everyone has a story here, and Morrissey uses his standard understated direction to get intriguing performances from his cast. Dallesandro is as natural as ever--almost eerily so. While Feldman and Ast are hysterically camp. Miles is wonderfully realistic as a former star who can't come to terms with reality.
  Through all this, Morrissey maintains a sunny, silly tone. The characters' overt selfish ambition shines brightly in every scene, and the jagged improvised dialog is often simply brilliant. The film even manages to scoop Robert Altman's The Player by 20 years with a fiendishly astute satire of high-concept Hollywood pitches and close-minded studio preconceptions. With a much bigger budget, slicker editing, glorious photography and even a strong John Cale score, this is a more polished, dialog-based film than the previous two; and it's also much more aware of the film censor. But as it takes a swipe at everything from sexuality to showbiz, it stays consistently entertaining and very telling.
dir-scr Paul Morrissey
with Joe Dallesandro, Sylvia Miles, Andrea Feldman, Pat Ast, Gary Koznocha, Eric Emerson, Ray Vestal, PJ Lester, Harold Childe, John Hallowell, Bonnie Walder, Pat Parlemon
dallesandro and miles release US 6.Oct.72,
UK 25.Jul.05 dvd
72/US Factory 1h40
18 themes, language, nudity, innuendo, drugs
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Shorts by Paul Morrissey
This is a self-described "sketch" - literally a moving photograph, image with no sound. It consists of a series of extended close-ups of a woman (Karen Holzer) walking along the waterfront, looking around, annoyed, lost, maybe hurt. We only see her face, nothing else. Morrissey is proving that the "exterior" is stronger without a forced inner logic. And indeed, this short has sense of urgency and intrigue without any answers. Striking and oddly moving.

This silent film is about a young kid trying to get high. The title comes from a Shirley Temple song Morrissey played along with the film when he projected it in the 1960s. We just watch this guy (Richard Toelk) rolling a joint and smoking it in a series of close-ups showing his face, expressions. It's understated and intriguing, and then begins to get much more provocative when he uses an 1920s arthritis treatment implement to administer minor electrical shocks, just to give him some sensation. Then he picks up a small knife. Introspective, thoughtful, pointed and, eventually, rather horrifying.

A simple, silent short in black and white, Morissey focuses his camera on a black couple in a small room. They start out cleaning their fingernails, then wordlessly move intoshooting up heroin one by one, helping each other then descending into themselves. It's extremely well shot and edited. And very grim and seedy. As Morrissey says, this is "the opposite of getting high - it's getting low and sleepy"! And it certainly doesn't need any sound at all. Detailed and harrowing.

dir-scr Paul Morrissey
morrissey These silent shorts are packaged, with commentary by Morrissey, on the DVDs for Flesh, Trash and Heat

About Face: 64/US 5m
All Aboard: 64/US 7m
Like Sleep: 65/US 10m

themes, drugs, grisliness
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2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall