Flesh

Joe Dallesandro spends a lot of time out of his clothes in director Paul Morrissey’s “Flesh.” If I looked like Joe Dallesandro, I’d spend a lot of my time out of my clothes as well. I have a friend who looks like Joe, and he spends a lot of his time naked. I guess I should be glad that the star of this film is Joe Dallesandro instead of Joe Flynn from “McHale’s Navy.”


fleshdvd“Flesh” arrives as an Andy Warhol presentation, and for years, people have thought that the avant garde artist directed the film himself. Wrong! That duty went to Warhol’s friend Paul Morrissey, who would carve out a name for himself as a director of excess. That would be true of “Flesh,” a little, self-indulgent exercise in improvisation and male street hustling.” Morrissey also directed “Heat” and “Trash.” Okay, now just who is Joe Dallesandro? Well, he’s an actor.

At least now he’s an actor. He was a male street hustler when Warhol and Morrissey discovered him. Joe’s life on the streets was immortalized by Lou Reed in the song “Walk on the Wild Side.” His life as an actor began auspiciously. He basically plays himself in “Flesh.” His name is Joe, which is a good thing, because that’s what the tattoo on his arm says. To help support his wife, Joe hustles gay men.

When he’s not hustling, he’s hanging out and having sex with his friends. It’s obvious that there’s enough to go around. The film was written, photographed and directed by Morrissey, but it’s more a series of vignettes. The dialogue seems improvised, and Morrissey uses a cinema verite style that is both annoying and useful to the overall effect of the film. He pastes these little slices of life together with erratic jump cuts and camera flashes. For 1968, this was considered daring and hip.

Today it’s just annoying. Most of the cast is charismatic, especially Joe, who is so disarming he has no problem getting sex whenever he wants. One of the film’s most unusual moments comes when Joe agrees to pose for an elderly artist who is turned on by the naked male form. As Joe struts around naked or strikes some athletic pose, this guy (a very lonely Maurice Baddell) waxes eloquent about the artistic pleasures of his naked form. “Flesh” arrived in a time when it was considered brave to drop your drawers and flash a little skin. “Hair” was a hit on Broadway, and flower power people were dancing naked in the streets. Still, I was taken by surprise by the amount of male frontal nudity in this film.

Oh sure, other male actors has wagged the dog in film before, but it was usually a quick cut to prove that they could get away with it. The opening images of “Flesh” feature Dallesandro sleeping naked on a bed, and from that moment on, he doesn’t wear much more. That’s why I said at the beginning if I had a body like his, I’d probably be naked a lot more too. I don’t, so I keep my clothes on. I guess when Dallesandro is 90, he can whip out the (be careful now) DVD of “Flesh” and show it to his grandchildren. “See kids, daddy was a hunk once too.”

COMPLETE CHECK-UP

VISION: [ ] 20/20 [ X ] Good [ ] Cataracts [ ] Blind

The grainy images are not a bi-product of the digital transfer but come from the film stock used to shoot the movie. Therefore, the digital transfer is pretty decent. There’s no obvious pixelation, but I couldn’t tell the difference between a compression artifact and grain on the original negative. The film looks good, with comfortable colors (sparsely used), warm flesh tones and hazy blacks. Delivered in a full-frame ratio, “Flesh” doesn’t display great depth or saturation, but that’s the nature of the beast. What you see is what audiences have been getting since 1968.

HEARING: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Minor Hearing Loss [ ] Needs Hearing Aid [ ] Deaf

Standard but functional Dolby Digital Mono. Don’t expect much and you’ll be more than pleased.

ORAL: [ ] Excellent [ ] Good [ X ] Poor

No closed captions or subtitles. There is a good deal of body language, however.

COORDINATION: [ ] Excellent [ ] Good [ ] Clumsy [ X ] Weak

Day-glow condoms and “Andy Warhol’s Guide to SoHo Hunks” come with every DVD…get real! There are no extras here. Move on. There’s nothing to see.

PROGNOSIS: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Fit [ ] Will Live [ ] Resuscitate [ ] Terminal

Unlike other groundbreaking 1960’s films that tried to capture the era, “Flesh” does so with a unique honesty that can’t be duplicated. It’s not a film for everyone, but it does freeze frame a time and place that was definitely out of the mainstream.

VITALS: $29.99/Not Rated/89 Minutes/Color/12 Chapter Stops/Snapcase/#ID4731PYDVD

ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen

PATIENT: FLESH

BIRTH DATE: 1968

HMO: Image Entertainment



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