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aka - Andy Warhol’s Heat
USA 1972
Directed by
Paul Morrissey
102 minutes
Rated R

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Heat (1972)

Paul Morrissey made a number of films in the late 60s and early 70s under the banner “Andy Warhol presents….”. They were unapologetically low budget, trashy affairs that cocked a snoot at the conventions of mainstream cinema and its mores, being closer to porn than anything a studio would put it name to. Heat is the most narratively developed (even if only in just having a narrative) and appealing of a “trilogy” of films (the other two were Flesh, 1968 and Trash, 1970) which all starred super-hunk Joe Dallesandro, who was immortalised as Little Joe in Lou Reed’s “Walk On The Wildside”.

An outrageously deadpan and, depending on your sense of humour, deliciously funny/sacriligious parody of  Billy Wilder's 1950 classic Sunset Boulevard. Dallesandro plays unemployed former child actor, Joey Davis, who lives in a flea-bitten motel in Santa Monica run by a slatternly landlady (Pat Ast). Fellow denizens are couple of brother who perform onstage sex acts and a teenage single mother Jessica (Andrea Feldman) and her abusive lesbian girlfriend. The sexually obliging Joey services the landlady in order to get a discount on the rent but when Jessica’s mother. Sally (Sylvia Miles), a small-time actress/chorus girl, Sally Todd, who had worked with Joey on his sole claim to fame a TV series called The Big Ranch, Joey sees an opportunity to further his career and shacks up with her in her run-down Hollywood mansion. The trouble is that Sally is so washed-up that the only people she knows are hacks and bottom-feeders and the disillusioned Joey soon drifts back to the motel and its waiting pool.

With its intentionally sleazy take on sex, its outrageous characters and remorselessly tongue-in-cheek style, Heat is a trophy for lovers of camp/trash cinema. Sylvia Miles who had gained some prominence as the trashy frump in Midnight Cowboy (1968) is memorable as the well-worn starlet whilst Andrea Feldman, who was also in Trash and who committed suicide by jumping from the 14th floor of a New York apartment building shortly after this film’s release, steals the show as her dim-witted daughter. The rest of the cast are certainly of a piece with the amateur hour performance level that makes the film so much fun whilst Dallesandro is perfect as the impassive object of everyone’s attention.

For all their tackiness, Morrissey’s films were in their own way pioneers of a super-cool aesthetic that would gain greater acceptance with the toned-down films of Jim Jarmusch.

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