Nov 11, 2012

Around Flesh, Trash & Heat



Aside from the book The Films of Paul Morrissey (1993) written by Maurice Yacowar – which is the only serious academic study of the Warhol Factory filmmaker – and the feature-length ‘video-memoir’ document Factory Days: Paul Morrissey Remembers the Sixties (2006), the French documentary anthology Around Flesh, Trash & Heat (2003) by French documentarian filmmaker Amaury Voslion is indubitably one of the best sources for information on the "Paul Morrissey Trilogy" produced by Andy Warhol. Around Flesh, Trash & Heat also features information on Morrissey’s experience as the manager of The Velvet Underground and Nico, footage from the famous concert The Exploding Plastic Inevitable that took in NYC in May 1967 directed by Ronald Nameth, and the 36-minute documentary Scenes from the life of Andy Warhol: Friends and Intersections (1982) directed by Jonas Mekas (Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania, Lost Lost Lost). Quite frankly, the films by Nameth and Mekas add virtually nothing to Around Flesh, Trash & Heat and reflect the sort of Warholian monster that has followed Paul Morrissey throughout his career, thereupon giving credit where credit is not due because the Warhol brandname was written in large letters for films the pop-con-artist had no part in writing, filming, or directing. As Morrissey once stated, “Andy would just give me the money and let me do what I wanted. He had an encouraging tendency, always asking what he could do for you…He wasn’t stupid but he didn’t come across intelligent. But he was. He knew what he could do and what he couldn’t.” After directing, editing, shooting, and distributing so-called Warhol films like Chelsea Girls (1966), I, a Man (1967), Bike Boy (1967), The Nude Restaurant (1967), and Lonesome Cowboys (1968), Morrissey was finally able to develop a distinctive and pioneering auteur style of filmmaking with a gritty and sometimes grating ‘anti-aesthetic’ that complimented the filmmaker’s astute satire and social commentary on the sexual revolution and counter-culture movements that were terribly trendy at that time. As a proud and uncompromising right-wing conservative, Morrissey was able to do the seemingly impossible while working with virtually nil budget by making curiously campy comedies that de-romanticized and deconstructed the gutter-level glamour of sex, drugs, & rock ‘n’ roll, which amusingly generally appealed to the sort of viewers that they lampooned.  Needless to say, with his relatively successful career in comedic filmmaking, Paul Morrissey inevitably had the last laugh.



 As Morrissey explains in the segment "About Flesh" in Around Flesh, Trash & Heat, Andy Warhol was the one giving the budding conservative filmmaker the encouragement to make the first film in his classic trilogy Flesh (1968). While working as a manager at the Warhol Factory, Morrissey was responsible for gathering up Warhol Superstars as extras for the later infamous pseudo-Warhol-esque hippie artist party scene (which features Viva, Ultra Violet, etc.) in John Schlesinger's Midnight Cowboy (1969). After Morrissey explained to Warhol that Midnight Cowboy was about a male prostitute (a subject previously covered by Warhol in the 1965 film My Hustler), the poof-pop-artist recommended to his young ‘protégé’ that he beat John Schlesinger to the chance and make an independent cinematic work in a similar vein, but releasing it before to the Hollywood film. Of course, Morrissey did and the film was Flesh (1968) starring then-relatively unknown hustler-turned-actor Joe Dallesandro in the lead role. As Morrissey explains in Around Flesh, Trash & Heat, Flesh was the first film in cinema history where an audience was handcuffed and arrested after a Nigerian distributor made the mistake of having the film screened in jolly old England. Little Joe would also go on to star in the second two films in the Paul Morrissey Trilogy as well: Trash (1970) and Heat (1972). Ironically, for a film that literally describes the counter-culture it sardonically spoofs as "worthless garbage" with its title, Trash would be described by Rolling Stone magazine in 1970 as the "Best Film of the Year" and turned Dallesandro into a sex icon among youth culture and the so-called sexual revolution.


 As he clearly states in Around Flesh, Trash & Heat, what ties all the films in Morrissey’s trilogy together, aside from Dallesandro's presence, is that all the films feature a “world where sex is dead” due the fact that the lead character is a product/victim of the sexual revolution (aka sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll) because, as an idiot idealist who bought into mindless hedonism, he has become a heroin addict who can’t get an erection, even with all the pussy and cocks that are incessantly waved in front of his face.  Each one of the films focuses on the three main ingredients of the sexual revolution: Flesh being about sex, Trash being about drugs, and Heat being about rock 'n' roll with the films in the Paul Morrissey trilogy offering a less than nostalgic view of this trend that still lingers today among youth.  Despite being constantly described as a loose remake of Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950), Morrissey described the final film in his trilogy Heat as being intrinsically influenced by Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel (1930) aka Der blaue Engel starring Emil Jannings and Marlene Dietrich, albeit with the gender roles reversed (instead of a young cabaret whore using and destroying an esteemed educator like in Sternberg's film, a drugged-out would-be-rock-star uses a washed-up actress to finance his career) with Sylvia Miles and Joe Dallesandro as the stars. In Heat, the anti-hero Joey Davis (Dallesandro) – a hustler and former child star – wants to jumpstart his rock star career so he superficially seduces an older Sally Todd (Miles) with the most patently pitiable yet perversely playful of results.  Naturally, Paul Morrissey would continue to satirize the complete and utter worthlessness and corrosiveness of liberalism and counter-culture with his more professionally directed works like Forty Deuce (1982), Mixed Blood (1985), and Spike of Bensonhurst (1988).


As Paul Morrissey makes quite clear in Around Flesh, Trash & Heat, he almost singlehandedly ran Warhol’s factory for a number of years, but especially everything and anything related to filmmaking. Eventually, Morrissey became the manager and producer of The Velvet Underground and even made the crucial recommendation of adding German singer Nico (born Christa Päffgen), thereupon resulting in the film The Velvet Underground and Nico: A Symphony of Sound (1966), the revolutionary 'art rock' album The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967) and the seemingly thaumaturgic and quasi-psychedelic multi-media event The Exploding Plastic Inevitable (1966-1967), where the Factory filmmaker (with the help of forgotten filmmaker Danny Williams) would project footage he shot on the wall while the band performed.  As Morrissey explained, in the documentary Factory Days: Paul Morrissey Remembers the Sixties (2006), The Velvet Underground inevitably disbanded because Lou Reed had a pestering and overwhelming jealousy of Nico, but the filmmaker would continue to work as the singer's manager for some time thereafter.  Essentially, Around Flesh, Trash & Heat makes for a great introduction to the work, philosophy, and influence of Paul Morrissey, especially in regard to his original trilogy, so it is a shame that the French documentary is not exactly easily accessible, which is undoubtedly another sign of Andy Warhol's undeserved and unearned legacy haunting the anti-revolutionary revolutionary auteur filmmaker's work.



-Ty E

9 comments:

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Its such a shame that Andy Warhol was a faggot, thats what always puts me off watching his films, just think about how much better his movies would have been if he`d been heterosexual ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

You`re right about Andy Warhols 'so-called' legacy being totally unearned and undeserved, he was a ludicrous and pathetically talentless free-loading faggot, the fact that he is still 'supposedly' remembered for anything 25 years after he snuffed it is utterly absurd.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Mary Woronov is only a few weeks away on this site, i`m getting really excited about that, are you ?.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

At Christams i`m gonna` be making a massive and all-encompassing effort to believe that it is actually Christmas of 1987 again instead of Christmas of 2012, Heather will be joining me for Christmas dinner (and her 12th birthday of course), its gonna` be so incredibly magical. Why dont you do the same, imagine that Heather is with you on Christmas Day, it`ll add such an extra magic to the yuletide period.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

"Citadel" is British made dog-shit, why did you inflict it on yourself ?. If it had been American made it would`ve been a classic. The British simply dont know how to make films, they haven`t got a clue, when are you finally going to realise that. By the way, were there any naked little girls in it ! ?.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

The poster for "Citadel" is an exact copy of the poster for "The Raid", bloody copy-cat British bastards. I`m not completely happy with "The Raid" though because that was directed by a Welsh scumbag, its so irritating how British rubbish seems to turn up everywhere.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I just watched "Bride of Re-Animator" (1990) on YouTube, the last 10 minutes alone displayed more imagination and entertain-girl-t than everything that the British film industry has ever produced put together over the last 123 years since the invention of the cinematograph circa 1889 ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Andy Warhol was one of those irritating little farts who became famous for doing absolutely nothing.

Anonymous said...

hey Jervaise, kill yourself please. no one likes homophobes.