Paul Morrissey box set: Flesh/Trash/Heat


Reviewed by: Keith Dudhnath

Flesh, Trash and Heat are three films presented as a loosely connected trilogy. They are very much writer/director Paul Morrissey's stories - Andy Warhol's involvement appears to have been little beyond sticking his name at the top of the credits upon completion. Each film features Joe Dallesandro, sometime hustler, sometime doorman at Warhol's Factory, drifting quietly alongside a series of over-the-top characters, generally from society's underclass.

Flesh is the most documentary-like of the three, with the least plot and least script. On its simplest level, it's a day in the life of Joe the hustler. Trash is slightly more polished, this time with Joe as an impotent junkie, trying to earn money for himself and his transvestite girlfriend. Heat is by far the most traditional - or least experimental, if you prefer. It's a loose remake of Sunset Boulevard, with Joe playing the equivalent of Joe Gillis and Sylvia Miles playing the equivalent of Norma Desmond.

The similarities between the three films are striking. The improvisational nature of so much of the dialogue, with many of the characters clearly drawing from their own experiences, brings a level of reality that should be envied by all filmmakers. Such naturalism feels oddly comfortable with the amateur over-acting by some of the minor characters. In Trash, for example, Joe sits quietly and injects himself with heroin, whilst around him a husband and wife bicker and drone on in annoying exaggerated voices. The juxtaposition is both intentionally and unintentionally hilarious. Throughout the films, there's never an occasion where the level of naturalism, or over-acting, doesn't feel perfectly apt.

All three revel, at times, in the camp excess of its array of weird subculture characters, without either judging them, or raising them up on a pedestal. Comparisons can be made to early John Waters from the same era. I'd be highly surprised if each director didn't inspire the other. Throughout all this, Dallesandro is quietly lost in his own world, whilst the camera lovingly pores over every inch of his body.

The films are very rough around the edges, which won't be to everyone's tastes. The noise that accompanies every poorly edited cut in Flesh, for example, takes a fair amount of getting used to. Similarly, the lack of traditional plotlines will sharply divide those who love the films and those that hate them. I loved them.

Films about nothing, when everything clicks into position, can be the most insightful and moving. Flesh, Trash and Heat are wonderful. I can only imagine just how groundbreaking they must have been when first released. Their influence can still be seen in independent and arthouse productions to this day.

One word of warning: although the three films belong alongside each other, the similarities mean that if you watch them too closely together, they can blend a bit too much into one another. I wouldn't go so far as to say that each repeats the other, but I expect my appreciation and enjoyment will increase when viewed again individually, rather than as a whole.

Reviewed on: 03 Aug 2005
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Paul Morrissey box set: Flesh/Trash/Heat packshot
Trilogy of films about a sometime hustler.
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Director: Paul Morrissey

Writer: Paul Morrissey

Starring: Joe Dallesandro, Geraldine Smith, Holly Woodlawn, Sylvia Miles, Andrea Feldman, Maurice Bradell, Jane Fort

Year: 2005

Runtime: 287 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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