Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Joe Dallesandro on Film: Trash (1970)

******A series, dedicated to my wife Kelley, celebrating the legendary beauty and career of Joe Dallesandro in stills and text.***

One of the most brilliant and poetic films of the seventies, Paul Morrissey's Trash (1970) is a work that has not lost any of its considerable power in the more than forty years since it first premiered. Driven by Morrissey's trailblazing experimental direction and the dazzling performances of Joe Dallesandro and Holly Woodlawn, Trash is a masterpiece and is widely considered by most to be the greatest film of Morrissey's influential trilogy, which also included Flesh and Heat.

Filmed in under two weeks by Morrissey (mostly in the basement of his New York apartment) and a one-man crew, Trash is at once more approachable than the more visually experimental Flesh and yet more demanding. Trash is a heavier film than Flesh with an emphasis on 'heavy', as there is an exhaustion present in the film that wasn't in the earlier Morrissey-Dallesando collaborations. It's that heaviness, that world-weariness, that helps make Trash perhaps the most moving film Morrissey ever made and it has stood the test of time long after so many 'trendsetting' American films of the late sixties and early seventies have badly dated.

While Joe Dallesandro gives one of his great defining performances in Trash, the real story here is the work done by the great Holly Woodlawn, who manages to be funny, tragic and consistently brilliant in a role that was originally designed for just one scene. Legendary filmmaker George Cukor was so moved by Woodlawn's performance that he started a campaign to get a Best Actress nomination but, sadly, it wasn't meant to be. It was the Academy's major oversight though as Woodlawn's performance in the film is among the best I have ever seen.

Dallesandro and Woodlawn control Trash completely but the film does include several notable co-stars including Geri Miller (who appears in the film's incredibly sexy opening scenes), Andrea Feldman, Jane Forth and Michael Sklar. A young Sissy Spacek shot a scene for the film but was cut as Morrissey assembled the released version.

Trash garnered a lot of justified critical acclaim upon its release and it remains one of the best and most defining films of the seventies. For me persoanlly, Trash stands as one of the great examples of how truly life altering (and affirming) a film can be. We would be blessed to have more films this honest and raw in our theaters today.

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