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#95: Flesh
in 2008: 95; in 2006: 74; in 2004: 71
dir. Paul Morrissey, 1968
scr. Paul Morrissey; cin. Paul Morrissey
with Joe Dallesandro, Geraldine Smith, Patti D'Arbanville, Candy Darling
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In 100 Words: Like Sirk in Factory clothing (i.e., very little clothing), Flesh is an unpredictably poignant melodrama where Joe Dallessandro stays as paralyzed within his social "place" as Jane Wyman ever was. Young, inarticulate beauty provides a ticket only to semi-consensual attention, the unremunerative economy of other people's awkward longings. This deadpan joke deepens into an Au hasard, Centerfold, comprising exquisite interludes when Joe counsels other hustlers, or lolls with an infant—studying and relating, like Goodall with her apes. The fender-bender edits rough up the texture, aesthetic poverty evoking a hand-to-mouth marginality that is Joe's idiom and his great, sad fear.

Food for Thought: Loath as I am to perpetuate the pattern of conflating billed director Paul Morrissey's legacy completely with that of producer-impresario Andy Warhol, I think I arrived at my most stimulating thoughts about Flesh while reading the Warhol chapter in Matthew Tinkcom's Working Like a Homosexual (Durham: Duke University Press, 2002). Tinkcom compellingly blends Marxist methodologies with camp insight, theorizing the traces of invisible queer labor and attempting to posit the peculiar value, in any number of senses, of film work credited to Vincente Minnelli, Andy Warhol, Kenneth Anger, and John Waters. Flesh is nowhere mentioned, but not unusually for me, it lingered in my mind while I read. When I teach the film, I usually assign Ch.2 of Maurice Yacowar, The Films of Paul Morrissey (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1993) and Ch.7, entitled "Paul Morrissey Films: Confidential Stories," from J.J. Murphy, The Black Hole of the Camera: The Films of Andy Warhol (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012).

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