Flesh (1968)

Flesh (1968)

“You just do whatever you have to do.”

A hustler (Joe Dallesandro) whose wife (Geraldine Smith) has requested money for an abortion for her girlfriend (Patti D’Arbanville) engages in numerous adventures throughout the day, including hooking up with a young john (John Christian), posing nude for an older artist (Maurice Barddell), giving advice to a new hustler (Barry Brown), making out with his former girlfriend (Geri Miller), and requesting money from a friendly Korean War vet (Louis Waldron).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Counterculture
  • Paul Morrissey Films
  • Prostitutes and Gigolos

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “early attempt by Andy Warhol” (directed by Paul Morrissey) “to cross over from strictly underground to more commercial movies” features “no real story” but is instead “just a series of vignettes shot on New York streets and inside apartments, with Warhol regular Joe Dallesandro either hustling gays in order to get money for his disgruntled wife… or meeting and having sex with his weird friends.” He points out that it’s filled with techniques — including “a cinema verite camera style, improvisation, [and] intentionally sloppy jump-cut editing — that were unique in the commercial cinema of the day”, and equally “unusual” were the film’s themes: “homosexuality, transvestitism, casual sex, [and] male prostitution”, all meant to “subvert bourgeois sensibilities.” Peary writes that Dallesandro — who “is his young, likable self” — has “several amusing scenes with oddball characters, particularly a sequence with a philosophical artist” and “a sex scene with his wife when she asks what he wants her to do most and he says his laundry”. I’ll admit to quickly tiring of Morrissey’s “sloppy jump-cut editing”, but otherwise becoming oddly absorbed by this glimpse into “the peculiar lifestyle of a fringe element of the counterculture.”

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Some effective neo-realist footage in New York
  • Joe’s encounters with a Greek-loving artist

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a look as Warhol’s breakthrough feature film.


One thought on “Flesh (1968)

  1. Not must-see – but the more-hardcore cult film fans probably won’t be able to resist.

    Cultural con artist Warhol slowly (but never really significantly) worked his way up in the offbeat-cinema world. After leaving behind a series of experimental works which can hardly be classified as films, Warhol made his way onward to self-directed crap such as ‘Chelsea Girls’ and ‘Lonesome Cowboys’ before relinquishing the director chair to others – for the most part to Morrissey.

    As a director, Morrissey certainly developed more than Warhol ever did or could. His ‘Flesh for Frankenstein’ and ‘Blood for Dracula’ may leave more than a certain amount to be desired, but they are certainly leaps and bounds (esp. as legitimate cult films) ahead of ‘Flesh’, ‘Trash’ and ‘Heat’… which are simply terrible and mostly boring films.

    I’ve seen those three latter films at least twice. They will certainly have cult film fans who will defend them (for whatever ridiculous reason; most likely for the same reason they might defend John Waters’ earlier films). But, as a film fanatic, you’re strictly on your own here.

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