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USA 1968
Directed by
Paul Morrissey
89 minutes
Rated R

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars


The first in a trio (“trilogy” overstates the case) that writer, director and cinematographer Paul Morrissey made with Joe Dallesandro in the lead, other than the basic narrative elements of a central protagonist and the things that he does over the course of a single day, Flesh unrepentantly transgresses every critical criterion in the book - the dialogue is largely ad-libbed, acting as such there is none, the editing is rudimentary and the sound patchy (when there is a soundtrack). But of course that’s the point and if you don’t like it, well watch something else.

The film opens with a close-up of Dallesandro asleep while Sophie Tucker sings ‘Makin' Wicky Wacky Down in Waikiki’ on the soundtrack. Then the camera pulls out to reveal Dallesandro’s bare ass and we’re into the story as paterfamilias Joe, on the insistence of his wife (Geraldine Smith) who needs $300 for a friend's abortion, heads out to do the only thing he knows how to do, turn tricks. And so we follow his day’s activities as he obliges a couple of male customers, visits some drag queens, hangs out with some fellow rent boys and so on. All this is delivered with dead-pan indifference but one must admit that Dallesandro, who spends a good portion of the running time naked, is a superb specimen of male beauty and candidate for, as one of his customers (Maurice Braddell), puts it “body worship”.

As  long as the subject matter doesn’t affront you, nor the technical slapdashedness Flesh is mildly diverting and whilst not in any sense intended as a documentary the film nevertheless serves as a document of the times (one can see traces of it, for instance in Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy 1969)  




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