DC's

The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Paul Morrissey Day

 

‘Don’t say “Warhol films” when you talk about my films! Are you so stupid, you talk to people like that? I have to live through this for fifty years. Everything I did, it’s Warhol this, or he did them with me. Forget it. He was incompetent, anorexic, illiterate, autistic, Asperger’s — he never did a thing in his entire life. He sort of walked through it as a zombie and that paid off in the long run. But I just cannot take that shitty reference. What were you gonna say, if you can get past that?’ — Paul Morrissey

‘Paul Morrissey hates so-called “independent” cinema. He hates being lumped into that genre, even though he could be seen as a pioneer of the current small-scale indie film format. In 1965, at age 27, the budding filmmaker began collaborating with Andy Warhol on film projects; by 1967, the films released by the Warhol Factory bore his imprint, as Warhol’s previously static, unabridged productions now featured actual editing, basic camera trickery (quick cuts, close-ups, panning) and vivacious, naturalistic dialogue. After Warhol’s notorious shooting by “SCUM Manifesto” author Valerie Solanas in 1968, his involvement in the Factory’s films–which, according to Morrissey and several other sources, was mostly primitive visual ideas and occasional camera operating–diminished significantly. He served only as financier/producer/presenter on Morrissey’s controversial “Flesh/Trash/Heat” trilogy (released between 1968 and 1972) and Morrissey’s two intentionally trashy horror spoofs released in 1973 (“Flesh for Frankenstein” and “Blood for Dracula.”)

‘Morrissey’s films were shot quickly, with minimal instruction from either Morrissey or Warhol, and populated with eccentric non-actors (Morrissey hates the concept of “acting class.”) Transsexuals–a demographic previously unrepresented on the screen–were cast as actual women. Morrissey was very accepting of transsexuals; he never ridiculed them–though he wasn’t afraid to show their characters behaving outlandishly–and, in films like “Flesh,” “Trash,” and “Women in Revolt,” he consistently brought out the humanity of performers like Candy Darling and Holly Woodlawn.

‘The imagery in Morrissey’s films tends to contradict his personal viewpoints. Morrissey was–and is–an unapologetic conservative and devout Catholic: he hated hippies, the sexually liberated, drug users, rock music enthusiasts (his scorn for the latter was no doubt exacerbated when he agreed, purely for business purposes, to manage The Velvet Underground). His films are full of these types, but though the “toilet” culture he attempted to mirror in his films disgusted him, he adored the actors he cast–no matter how different their lifestyle and politics–and he still refuses to see his films as political or even that incensed; to him, they are realistic comedies. Though some of them are filled with simulated fellatio, masturbation with inanimate objects, attempted rapes and extended shots of full frontal nudity, Morrissey doesn’t see his films as provocative either; he calls them “silly.” Morrissey hates pretentious, art house cinema–even though his own films have some of the same characteristics (raw and rambling dialogue, shaky camerawork, a documentary-like approach to the characters). He prefers the rules and discipline and self-censorship of the pre-1960s Hollywood and British studio productions (he reportedly admires Carol Reed and Elia Kazan). His films are supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, yet realistically portraying a culture that simultaneously amuses and saddens him. He hates dramas about degradation, because they fail to see the idiocy in their subjects’ self-destructive behavior.

‘After parting entirely from Warhol–whom he still resents for taking so much of the credit for his films–Morrissey made a botched attempt at a more collaborative, mainstream production (the critically savaged Dudley Moore and Peter Cook-penned Sherlock Holmes spoof “The Hound of the Baskervilles”) in 1978. By the 1980s, Morrissey had slipped back into his raison d’etre: subtly, if bitterly, mocking the countercultures of his day. With the exception of “Mixed Blood,” a comedy about New York City gang warfare, all of his 1980s films (“Madame Wang’s,” a campy 1981 comedy about an East German who can’t assimilate to LA’s drug and punk rock-laden culture; “Forty Deuce,” the 1982 adaptation of Alan Bowne’s play about Times Square gigolos, starring Kevin Bacon; “Beethoven’s Nephew,” an uncharacteristically laugh-free 1985 drama about the composer’s secretly savage nature; and “Spike of Bensonhurst,” a lighthearted 1988 romp about an up-and-coming boxer) are not on Netflix and difficult to find. His comedies are alternately preachy and (in this day and age) emphatically un-P.C., but they all reflect Morrissey’s unflinching independence, his contrarianism, his fierceness.’ — Hidden Films

 

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Further

Paul Morrissey @ IMDb
Flesh, Trash, Heat: The Irony of Paul Morrissey
Paul Morrissey’s Top 10 @ The Criterion Collection
Introduction – The Films of Paul Morrissey
[DU SANG POUR DRACULA]
Paul Morrissey@ letterboxd
Book: The Films of Paul Morrissey
Video: PAUL MORRISSEY, IN THE FLESH
Paul Morrissey: Trash
“How Stupid the Whole World Is!” An interview with Paul Morrissey
Letters to Paul Morrissey @ Film Threat
Paul Morrissey on Lady Gaga, Andy Warhol, and “Comrade Osama Obama”
A Word on the Paul Morrissey vs. Andy Warhol Debate
Paul Morrissey Dishes on Acting School and Andy Warhol

 

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Extras


Interview – Paul Morrissey


LETTERS TO PAUL MORRISSEY – Official Trailer


A Look On the Wild Side (2002) – Andy Warhol/Paul Morrissey Documentary

 

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Interview

 

OUI: There’s a noticeable difference between your early movies, such as Trash, and your latest ones, Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein and Andy Warhol’s Dracula. Is it true, as some critics contend, that you’ve gone from the underground to the surface?

MORRISSEY: Each time I make another film, I want to change, but I don’t want to change that much. It’s mostly a question of adapting. I never optioned scripts to agents to show to actors, which is the conventional film-making system in the U. S. I’ve always made independent films in an independent way, and I know it would be nice to preserve some of that: casting them myself, writing the stories myself, having a say in as many things as possible. But I’ve come to the conclusion that by doing things that way, you become isolated from a lot of things — certainly from the rest of the film business. Critics, especially the New York critics, treat this independence with contempt. They prefer to deal with known quantities like scripts they can evaluate, directors they can find an easy way of talking about.

OUI:But it’s because you are not a known quantity that your films have been distinctive. Wouldn’t you say being so independent has been an advantage?

MORRISSEY: Certainly. I think the films I’ve made have been different. Their strong point is that they are very rich in characterization, even though they’re not commercial. I still enjoy all the films that I made with Andy Warhol. What Andy hit upon was that characters were vanishing from films, characterization was disappearing and was being upstaged by a lot of cinematic claptrap. Andy completely eliminated the claptrap. He just turned on the camera and left the room.

OUI: What were your and Warhol’s respective roles in your early films together, such as My Hustler and The Chelsea Girls?

MORRISSEY: I just understood what Andy was doing and helped him do it. Andy usually operated the camera. I always did the lights, organized the film, got the actors together, told them what to do. We never ever told actors just to be themselves. That’s a lot of crap. The people who’ve tried to copy Warhol have always gotten it completely wrong, except for Norman Mailer. He understood that you take people and put them into acting situations, trying to make them lose a consciousness of acting. By eliminating written dialogue and camera changes, you lose the artificiality of a commercial movie. You get something different.

OUI: You said that Warhol turned on the camera and left the room, but that certainly isn’t what you’re now doing in your films. Isn’t there a lot less improvisation and accident in your new films than in your early ones?

MORRISSEY: No, there’s just as much, but it’s edited down, so you don’t see the gaps where nothing’s happening. Those gaps are interesting in and of themselves, but they make the films much less accessible. My films are a blend, more or less, of what Andy hit upon and of more conventional film making.

OUI: But so many of Warhol’s early films, particularly Sleep and Empire, have no characterization. They are directors’ films at best and inside jokes at worst.

MORRISSEY: Nobody looks at Empire, the 24-hour Empire State Building film. Even Andy’s never looked at it. I assume it was done to provoke journalists. But consider The Chelsea Girls and Bike Boy; there you have performances and characterization.

OUI: So your definition of a good film is one with strong characterization. You must have liked Last Tango in Paris.

MORRISSEY: No. I think it’s a very poor film. It has a self-indulgent performance by Marlon Brando — full of his bargain-basement psychoanalyzing and notions of life and death. For a number of years, he was the best actor alive, and then he didn’t want to be that anymore. He wanted to become intellectual. He kept looking for films that had something important to say. Bertolucci is still one of the most talented directors in Europe, but I say that because of The Conformist, which is a really superb film. Pauline Kael and many others went into ecstasy over Tango. They found it the definitive statement of contemporary sexuality. I just don’t think that young girls get emotionally overwrought by older men, at least not so much so that they have to shoot them. That’s excessive. It’s melodramatic and soap-operatic.

OUI: Mailer criticized the film for having simulated sex. Do you think that makes any difference?

MORRISSEY: No. Having real sex in a movie is silly, like really killing animals. What’s the point? The purpose of a film is to tell stories. The whole purpose of the camera is to lie.

OUI: But a lot of people feel that your film Heat is a much more accurate and truthful portrayal of Hollywood than what one ordinarily expects.

MORRISSEY:Well, realism and naturalism are always to be sought after. Any kind of theatrical fabrication is a valid thing. But people have always had this crazy idea that we were interested in making “real” films. Andy, in all his film making, never tried to presume that anything he was doing was real — it was always a film, and the format and stylistic devices always called attention to this. The theatrical part of it was prominent, but by eliminating written dialogue and camera changes, you lose the artificiality of a regular movie. The result is something different.

OUI: Well, you and Warhol started making films in an environment that was certainly out of the ordinary. Because of the campy nature of the Factory, your films had an aura about them that led the audience to believe that they were seeing a very special and bizarre slice of life. What’s happened to the Factory scene now?

MORRISSEY: The Factory isn’t what it was, but then again, what was it to begin with? Basically, it was a figment of journalists’ imaginations. Andy did a lot of painting in a big loft, and the phone would ring and someone would answer, and instead of saying “Andy Warhol’s loft,” he’d say “Factory.” Journalists imagined there was a lot of hippie-commune filth sitting up there taking drugs and getting in front of movie cameras. It was always a fictionalized thing. Andy still has a loft where he does his paintings. And whereas years ago the phone would be answered by the people who were hanging around, now Andy employs people to do that. Otherwise, there isn’t much difference. Andy doesn’t make films anymore, but he makes a lot of video tapes, and he tape-records people and photographs them. But that’s always been a hobby with Andy. He hasn’t changed a bit.

OUI: The Factory scene was a kind of miniature Hollywood, with stars like Joe Dallesandro, Holly Woodlawn, Viva Superstar and Ondine. If the Hollywood studio system were still operating, would you want to work in it?

MORRISSEY: Oh, yes. I always like to quote Bette Davis, who said, “I don’t think there will ever be a better system for making films.” The studio system wasn’t some idiotic director’s or producer’s or critic’s idea of how a good movie should be made. It evolved naturally out of the growth of the film industry, as an integral part of why films are made and why people go to see them. Audiences go to see people they like. Great stars are the true artists of film because they’ve understood who they are and have managed to render themselves truly. For example, what John Wayne has done is not to analyze a character — the piece of paper, the script that he’s got — but rather he has taken his own personality and kept it exactly the same for each film, in the same way a great artist keeps his personality in all the paintings he does. This is frowned upon by critics, because they believe it’s not acting. Actually, it’s the best kind of acting.

You read a good book because you meet characters you like, not because of plots or philosophical notions. The novel no longer exists because authors don’t introduce good characters. As the writing of critics became more important, it influenced the people who wrote novels. Basically, the novel thrived only when it was an individual thing between the writer and the reader. In the film world, the critics became very important, and suddenly directors were being influenced by what the critics were saying. Making a film for an audience was considered second-rate, pandering. When you lose characterization, you get directors’ films or writers’ films. Then you lose your audience. People stay home and watch TV, because there they can see characters.Nowadays, there’s no longer a film industry in America. We have a very fickle public that’s told in advance what it’s supposed to see: Love Story, The Godfather, The Exorcist. Whether the film is good or bad is immaterial; people have the notion that if the film was a best-selling novel, everybody’s read it and therefore everyone should see it and talk about it the next night at the pizza parlor.

But for me, it all comes back to character. I think the films that stand up are the ones you remember because you like the people, like Katharine Hepburn in Alice Adams, Vivien Leigh in Gone With the Wind, Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront.

OUI: Would you ever consider taking well-known stars such as these and using them in improvisational situations? Robert Altman has done this. Do you think he’s been successful?

MORRISSEY: No; it’s hard for name actors to improvise. I tend to be critical because I’ve directed so much of that kind of work. Commercial films can’t do that. They don’t have the time. When it’s done in a commercial film, it involves only a very short scene. Needless to say, you can’t really improvise under those conditions. You need a situation that’s loose, that doesn’t demand too much plot, and then, in the editing of the film, you take out all the gaps. Another problem with improvising is that professional actors are too self-conscious to improvise –- you can see their brains working.

There were actors who improvised brilliantly on TV, such as Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, or Jackie Gleason and his cast on The Honeymooners. They had written scripts, but they didn’t memorize them. They went in on Saturday afternoon, ran through them once or twice, and then went in front of the cameras. The Johnny Carson Show is totally improvised, and very often is much more interesting than an old movie.

OUI: Do you ever create situations with which to surprise actors while they’re improvising?

MORRISSEY: Never.In our early experiments, we found that surprises would sometimes happen automatically. For example, when Ondine lost his temper in The Chelsea Girls, it was really interesting and we kept it. The best subjects to improvise on are the most innocuous subjects. When Marlon Brando improvises on the meaning of life and death, it just becomes his little thing, it doesn’t relate to anything. But to hear somebody talk about what he cooked for dinner the night before, and how the oil spilled or something –- to me, that becomes universal and meaningful and worth listening to.

To come back to your question about name actors improvising, I think a lot of people can improvise, but I’d never ask, say, Clint Eastwood to do it, because I already like what he does, and why should I take the risk? If you work with famous actors, you should work with a script. People often tell me they like my movies and then they say, “But could you work with a script?” As though that were harder! I always like to ask in reply: “Could you work without a script?”

OUI: Since you work without a script, why do the credits of your films read, “Written and directed by Paul Morrissey?”

MORRISSEY:Well, I don’t type the script out, I write it in the sense that I create the story and accept or reject lines given to me by the actors. I think the merit of my films, if there is any, is that the films are basically literary, even though the dialogue isn’t written.

 

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14 of Paul Morrissey’s 25 films

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Like Sleep (1965)
‘A young man and a young woman sit on a sofa and use the traditional tools to inject drugs into their veins.’ — letterboxd

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Flesh (1968)
‘The narrative is simple (and confronting) enough. A young hustler (Joe Dallesandro) needs to hit the streets in order to raise money for his girlfriend’s lesbian partner’s abortion. He does this largely through prostitution and theft, but the film is primarily concerned with his general wanderings and conversations during the course of a single day. Joe spends time with his (real-life) baby son; teaches another young hustler how to do the job; strips down for an elderly artist etc. This was all something of a revelation for Morrissey, whose move with this film to more traditional narrative storytelling opened up a range of new possibilities.

‘Of course, the narrative certainly reveals Morrissey’s own reeling horror at contemporary social mores, and he pushes them to their logical (or illogical) extremes, but his distanced non-judgemental approach confounds such a simple reading – Morrissey feels for these people, and seems to like them despite any ingrained contempt he may feel. It is his use of amateur performers, whose naturalistic dialogue flows casually between artifice and genuine conversation, which allows us a window into a group of human beings, a period, and a way of thinking that is both jarring and authentic.

‘The number of people cast in the film who lived very short lives is more than a little confronting, and confirms what the viewer already knows – that these are people who have ventured far to the edge. Barry Brown, who makes a brief appearance as a hustler, took his own life at 27. Candy Darling also passed away in her twenties, albeit from an unavoidable condition. Jackie Curtis, who Warhol once described as being not a drag queen, but an artist and a pioneer without a frontier, passed away several years later from a heroin overdose at the age of 38.’ — James Curnow


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Trash (1970)
‘Joe (Joe Dallesandro) is a heroin addict whose habit has recently resulted in complete impotency. It is this loose narrative device that has him travelling from scene-to-scene, encountering various decadent situations that fail to stimulate him. His girlfriend, wonderfully and loudly played by the transsexual Holly Woodlawn, is frustrated by his condition, and brings home other men with the promise of illicit substances. Joe robs a rich couple’s home, only to be caught and become the subject of their grotesque bourgeois fascination with his lowly existence. Holly fakes pregnancy (originally with the intention of adopting her pregnant sister’s own child, possibly impregnated by Joe) in order to receive welfare, but is thwarted when a social worker demands that she hand over a pair of her high-heel shoes as a bribe.

‘Morrissey seems to be taking shots at every level of society as he explores the plight of a drug addicted couple, dependent on theft and welfare for their lifestyle, being treated as an object of scorn, fascination and exploitation by the comfortable middle-classes and a corrupt government bureaucracy.’ — Curnblog


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Heat (1972)
‘This is, from my perspective, Morrissey’s masterpiece. Loosely taking the narrative of Sunset Boulevard (1950), the film follows the exploits of a former childhood star, Joey Davis (Joe Dallesandro), and his attempts to re-establish himself as an actor. Living in a subpar motel on the edge of town, Joey pays the rent with sexual favours to his coarse landlord, and spends his time by the side of the pool talking to the hotel’s assortment of disturbing oddballs. One of those oddballs happens to be the less-than-stable Jessica (Andrea Feldman), the daughter of downtrodden former starlet, Sally Todd (Sylvia Miles). Jessica’s need for cash leads her to her mother’s home with Joey, where he is able to exploit the situation by initiating a relationship with this well-connected older woman. What follows is a sickly but fascinating portrayal of three exploitative people attempting to use each other to their own personal advantage. Sally wishes to control Joey like a sexual and emotionally comforting pet. Joey wishes to exploit Sally for his own career ambitions. The unstable Jessica wishes to punish her mother for a lack of financial support by seducing the apathetic Joey.

‘This is the film in which Morrissey’s free-flowing dialogue and naturalistic performances are combined most perfectly with a more conventional narrative structure and a more constrained aesthetic approach. It is also probably the film in which the ethical ideals of the director appear most comfortably integrated within the flow of the narrative.

‘Sylvia Miles is perfect in this film as the tragically lonely and incomplete Sally, and is ultimately the character that solicits the most sympathy. Dallesandro is typically and appropriately flat as the washed out actor without a single discernable emotion beyond a lazy drive towards the Hollywood dream. And Feldman’s performance is not so much an act as a struggle – there is a shrill, distant and tragic monotone in her delivery that I find fascinating. Sadly, Feldman was at least as troubled as the character she was playing, and took her own life before the film’s release.’ — James Curnow


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L’Amour (1973)
‘Donna and Jane are two American hippies, searching for sex and romance in Paris but, mainly, rich husbands. Eventually, Donna finds a perfume industrialist, Michael, who wishes to marry her, providing she will accept sharing his special friendship with local gigolo Max. Drama ensues as Michael changes his mind when meeting Jane, but all is well that ends well.’ — letterrboxd


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Flesh for Frankenstein (1973)
‘Paul Morrissey’s Flesh for Frankenstein is one of the goriest film comedies ever made. Yet despite its schlocky sensationalism, it’s still a Paul Morrissey film. That means it has some passionately felt things to say about how we live—and mainly waste—our lives today. Specifically, it blames sexual liberty and individualistic freedom for destroying our personal and social fibre by turning people into commodities. As in his Blood for Dracula (1974) and Beethoven’s Nephew (1985), Morrissey suggests that the moral failure exposed in his contemporary films—such as the Flesh trilogy (1968–72), Mixed Blood (1984), and Spike of Bensonhurst (1988)—derives from historical romanticism.

‘Morrissey deliberately lets his characters speak clichés for his satiric purpose. He lets them act inconsistently to suggest the vagaries of mortal whim. He goes way, way overboard, especially on the in-your-face gore in the rare 3-D version, because he considers both the horror genre and the 3-D fad to be ridiculous indulgences, romantic and commercial respectively. The film is absurd, but that’s calculated—and right in line with Morrissey’s familiar underlying moral spin.

‘As Alfred Hitchcock often demonstrated, in rather different tones, comedy and horror, laughter and fear, are closely related experiences. In few films are they yoked as exuberantly as in Paul Morrissey’s Flesh for Frankenstein.’ — Maurice Yacowar


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Blood for Dracula (1974)
‘In this singularly hilarious take on Bram Stoker’s vampire, Count Dracula is played by the inimitable Udo Kier (who also appears in a major supporting role in Bacurau). Searching for virgin blood, the Count comes upon the three beautiful daughters of an aristocratic landowner (Vittorio De Sica), but is interfered with by the estate caretaker (Joe Dallesandro). Produced by Carlo Ponti, filmed at Cinecittà, and written, directed, and cast by Paul Morrissey (director of the Andy Warhol productions Heat and Trash), Blood for Dracula is a modern, daring, and outrageous version that breathes new life into an age-old tale.’ — Film at Lincoln Center


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The Hound of the Baskervilles (1978)
‘A ‘homage’ to the spirit of English film comedy that is truly one of the crummiest movies ever made. In case the idea of a Conan Doyle send-up doesn’t itself have you in stitches, Morrissey and his stars/co-scripters Cook and Moore try to slay you with every other kind of joke their clapped-out minds can remember. There’s even a pathetic lampoon of The Exorcist, a mere four years too late. Every single gag and every single comedy role is mistimed, misplayed or simply misconceived. It also looks worse than any film from a ‘name’ director in years: a first-year film student would be ashamed of the flat, stilted compositions and the dingy little sets.’ — Time Out (London)


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Madame Wang’s (1981)
‘An outsider view of the extreme marginalia that defined the punk scene of late seventies / early eighties Los Angeles: the hippies all burned out, disco was dead or dying, and it wasn’t enough to be freaky. Freaky was the all new barometer for underground normality, baby. And so, through the eyes of an East Berliner* (the movie’s straight man or veritable blank canvas), we meet a gang of ghouls including a bloated, distended burger-eating young boy, his all but bearded non-stop jabbering mother, a Renfield without a Dracula who hoards and polishes doorknobs in-between hubcap-collecting, a pair of roly poly men who only exercise their bodies spiritually, and a hooker with a heart of gold but a boring personality. It’s the purest sleaze, scummy and stringy, obsessed with swap meets, putting on an act, and rehearsing for the revolution. You can almost sense Paul Morrissey’s disapproving scowl from behind the camera. The irony, of course, is that as its foul architect he’s the reluctant king on the abdicant throne.’ — PRIME


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Forty Deuce (1982)
‘Anyone mourning the demise of grimy 42nd Street will want to check out this ragged slice-of-lowlife, directed by Warhol-survivor Paul Morrissey (TRASH, WOMEN IN REVOLT). Based on the Off-Off-Broadway play by Alan Bowne, it embraces the world of teenage male hustlers, who work the streets off Times Square with offers of “coke, speed, cock.” And while extremely talky, Morrissey expertly captures NYC just as I first learned to love it — pocked with seedy porno theatres, graffitied subway cars and shithole apartments. A pre-DINER, 23-year-old Kevin Bacon recreates his Obie-winning role of Rickey, a greasy-haired, burnt-out, dealer/junkie who enjoys passing out in the Port Authority Mens’ Room. When he’s not nodding off, his mouth doesn’t stop, with some of the raunchiest, racist dialogue imaginable.

‘The performers, who all look the part, are a mixed bag (almost as if Morrissey hired ’em straight off the street). Meanwhile, the combined IQ of Augie & his boys equals that of a White Castle grill chef; and unbelievably, these characters are even less redeeming than those in Morrissey’s Warhol flicks. Containing too many digressions and dull patches to be a great film, it still sports several solid performances, colorful monologues, a believable stench of the city, and some gutsy experimental moves (particularly that lovably gratuitous, split-screen second act).’ — Shock Cinema


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Mixed Blood (1984)
Mixed Blood dramatizes the saga of a Brazilian drug dealer, Rita La Punta (Marília Pêra) and the various underage males, the Maceteros, who work for her. These males function as part of a symbolic family, along with her biological son Thiago (Richard Ulacia) and a prostitute named Toni (Geraldine Smith). Rita and the Maceteros engage in violent confrontations with a rival dealer, a Puerto Rican named Juan the Bullet (Angel David), who has his own group of young male workers, the Master Dancers. Mixed Blood’s working title was Alphabet City before that title was pre-emptively claimed by Amos Poe’s drug melodrama, released the year before Mixed Blood and set in the same area of New York. The aptness of the title change works on several levels. Within the context of Morrissey’s film, and the context of cinema in general during this decade, the question of blood ties is central: family, ethnicity, race, and, by extension, community, even as such ties, in the case of Mixed Blood, often culminate in violence, death, the shedding of blood. Moreover, in the age of AIDS and of heightened anxiety about intravenous drug use, blood also refers to things entering the bloodstream. During a decade in which the “Just Say No” campaign of Nancy Reagan (who appeared on the December 1981 cover of Warhol’s Interview magazine) assumed center stage in the “war on drugs,” Mixed Blood takes as its setting an area of Manhattan, the East Village, that was widely identified with drugs and poverty as well as with its largely black and Hispanic population. As a low-budget film made outside of Hollywood, Mixed Blood should have found a niche for itself within the eighties strain of independent (or “indie”) American cinema. However, the film’s visual and dramatic sensibility never totally aligns itself with the period from which it emerges. Mixed Blood is typical of its period and quite eccentric, its eccentricity almost entirely traceable to Morrissey’s intervention on the project. But rather than turning the film into a curiosity, this eccentricity throws into relief a number of important questions about the cinema of the eighties, as well as clarifying certain aspects of Morrissey’s own auteur status.’ — Joe McElhaney, Desist Film


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Beethoven’s Nephew (1985)
Beethoven’s Nephew is not one of Morrissey’s livelier efforts. In fact, it’s a dull dead end, full of ratty period trappings and Teutonic tantrums. The movie suggests an unnatural affection that Beethoven might have had for his nephew, Karl, of whom the composer was guardian for the last 12 years of Beethoven’s life.

‘Morrissey never comes out and says it, but I assume we’re supposed to think that Beethoven’s unhappiness about caring for the nephew springs from some unfulfilled lust for the boy. Beethoven sulks around like a rejected suitor, grumbling about his “malignant and odious” feelings, and continually interrupts Karl’s attempts at lovemaking with the opposite sex. The worst thing about the movie is the staid style in which Morrissey tells the story – it could use a dose of the old trashiness. The one enthralling sequence, when Beethoven’s deafness causes his conducting to go haywire, relies on the Ode to Joy for much of its power.

‘The two lead actors seem to be playing in different movies. Wolfgang Reichmann plays Beethoven out of the thunder-and-bluster school, with plenty of ham to go. Dietmar Prinz, as Karl, is from a long line of pimply­ faced, catatonic Morrissey leading men, a direct descendant of the zombied-out Joe Dallesandro from Warhol days. Their inability to connect typifies the movie’s problems.’ — The Herald


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Spike of Bensonhurst (1988)
‘The comedy in this movie is generated mostly out of broad racial stereotypes, and I know people who were offended by it; one person told me the film was nothing but an extended racist slur against Italians and Puerto Ricans. This is a hard call. I do not think the filmmakers or the actors had any racist intents. I think they were inspired more by the ethnic humor of TV sitcoms and movies like “Saturday Night Fever.” And because offense was not intended, perhaps none should be taken. When Bandana’s mother says she’s pleased to meet a kid with Mafia connections because it’s a way to move up in the world, is this racism? Or irony? Or sarcasm on her part? The fact that we have to guess makes it funny.

‘For a movie about a hero who gets both of his girlfriends pregnant, this is a chaste film. Spike never even kisses the beautiful India, although she has her lips parted in expectation at one moment, while we lean forward in our seats. When we learn she’s pregnant, we’re thunderstruck, because we’re still waiting for that first kiss. Soto, who plays India, is a famous model who photographs, let it be said, as the most beautiful woman in the movies since Daphne Zuniga. She is gorgeous, but, alas, she cannot act.’ — Roger Ebert


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Veruschka: A Life for the Camera (2005)
‘Vera von Lehndorff is a Prussian noblewoman and daughter of the Count Lehndorff, a leader of the anti-Nazi resistance, executed during WW II. She was discovered in 1959 by Italian photographer Ugo Mulas. After initial failure, she changed her name to Veruschka, became one of the first top models and was also considered for a long time one of the most beautiful women in the world. Muse to Antonioni in Blow up, and to Dalì, in the 1960s she was on the cover of magazines like Life, Vogue and Queen, and photographed by the most important talents of the time (Avedon, Newton). In 1965 she began working on “transfigurations”, which would lead to body art, where make-up becomes real body painting: from cat-woman, to snake, plant, mineral, African idol and finally to an immortal metallic body (for Rubartelli, director of the films Stop Veruschka and Trülzsch) which survives the natural decay of objects over time.’ — letterboxd


the entirety

 

 

*

p.s. RIP Giancarlo DiTrapano, Tyrant Books mastermind. Terrible loss. ** Sheree Rose, Hi, Sheree! So cool to have you here. Yes, shit, I totally spaced about the ‘Video Coffin’ piece when I was making the post. It would have been in there in less than a heartbeat. I’ll find another post to include it in, you can bet. Thanks, maestro. I’m hoping to see you in the flesh this year and before too, too long. Love, me. ** Dominik, Hi!! Well, as it seems to go with this blog, it is not all right now. I got a threatening email from my host yesterday saying if I don’t reduce the size of the blog’s data substantially and in the next week, the blog will be suspended again. Long story short, and I’m not sure how much of this will make sense, but my blog is doing this weird thing where, every time I upload an image, it is storing multiple copies of each image for no reason at all because I neither want nor need the copies. It automatically does that. That’s why I’m so exceeding the storage limit. Now I have to through all of the blog’s years and years of data and delete every copy, one by one, which is literally going to take me I don’t know many days even if I do it all my waking hours. And I also have to figure out to make the blog’s system stop doing that. It sucks majorly, let me just say. This place is cursed, I’m telling you. Anyway … Yeah, marketing skills … I have none of those either. Eek. I guess there must be a basic set of rules about what to do? There’s a new Gacy documentary? Huh. What’s it called? The photo shoot was painless. (I sadly did not go Black Metal for it). Well, painless at least until I see the photos, ha ha. I would like that book — thank you, Love! — but, yes, it is a far reach. Love in the form of the Easter Bunny organising a scavenger hunt for people with exciting editing jobs on offer and you and your skills as their Golden Egg prize, G. ** Ian, Hi, Ian. Not so groovy here, but I’m going to buy a dark chocolate Easter bunny today, which should help. Glad you liked the post stuff. I don’t know that Czech book. I’ll see what it is. Funny sounds like a balm. Sucks about the non-traction, but, yeah, don’t let it dampen you. It’ll pass. Seriously. You take care too. ** Misanthrope, Back for the moment, at least. If I knew any necrophiles, I’d send them a jpeg of you and ask them if they thought your future corpse was hot. Did your mom get that call, I hope? Nothing changed for us in Paris for the new lockdown. Ours just extended to everywhere. Don’t know why it’s bad here. It’s bad in most European countries. No clue. They say I’ll qualify for a vaccine on April 16th. ** Paul Curran, Hi, Paul! Such excellence to see you. Well, the blog’s return might be the blip — see my comment to Dominick — but I’m doing everything possible to keep it up. You finished the Infinity Land piece! Me too. And they accepted it even. Best news maybe ever that your J-novel is moving along well. Man, that is great to hear! Holy moly, I can’t wait to watch the Tungsten thing! Awesome! Let me … Everyone, Superb writer and much more Paul Curran has something on offer that will make your Easter weekend actually enjoyable for you if you can believe that. Paul: ‘[I] finally got round to converting or re-digitising these old DVD files from VHS of my first and worst heavy metal band from 1984 (Tungsten) when I was 14. Put it together as a full movie with band footage, interviews, and previews on YouTube, kind of a cross between Gummo and the Song Remains the Same, pure pre-social media 80s suburban madness… Perfect timing for the return of DCs!… Tungsten Live at Bunting Court (1984) – The Worst Heavy Metal Band Ever (Full Movie)!‘ Hit that folks, sincerely. Love to you, buddy! ** David Ehrenstein, Hi, Back at least for now, yes. Ha ha. Wow, happy 80th to Bill! That’s an achievement! ** Chris Kelso, Hi, Chris! Thanks, sir. I hope I can keep the blog unsuspended. I’ll sure try. Exciting about your impending Wake Island visit. Aw, thanks for whatever kind things you said. Burroughs will probably roll over in his grave, or, actually, James Grauerholz will probably use some kind of remote control unit to make Burroughs roll over in his grave. (James doesn’t like me). But thank you!! Sure, send the link. I’m a dedicated listener of WI, so I’ll find it one way or another. Have a great weekend, man. ** Bill, Hi, Bill. Yes, the technical glitches are only at the beginning. Ugh, But still. I thought her stuff might be in the realm of your alley. And, yes, I was consumed with blog mess and spaced on bandcamp Friday yesterday. Fuck. Get anything great? ** T, Hi, T. Thank you. My gore-tex is functioning to some degree, it seems, since I’m not blowing my top. Nice about your hometown trip. I long fervently for one of those. I’m happy you’re liking ‘Crystal Eaters’. Yeah, the prose is super sparkly. Great! I’m also happy that the corpses’ charisma seem to have been functioning well in your regard. You doing any Easter-ish thing? Other than eating a chocolate bunny, nothing festive is likely to occur here. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, B. I know, right? Oh, shit, Ben, I’m so sorry to hear about your bout with that infection. You and the blog are like long lost fraternal twins at the moment. You sound like you’e feeling better, and I sure hope so. Missing your Play Therapy as I so much do, your playlist is going to really hit the spot, I can tell you. Everyone, More Easter improvement material for you, this time from _Black_Acrylic. Hence, in his words, ‘I was nominated to select a 30-track Spotify playlist for a Facebook music group called Us & Them so here it is, “an attempt to resolve some contradictions I hear between underground dance music such as acid house and the simple joys of pop.” ** Jack Skelley, KoJack! You must’ve gotten that chestnut bleated at you before. Glad to be back. Back is pretty fragile at the moment, but back we are. I did actually eat a pastry with sprinkles on it, and it’s not an everyday thing to find French pastries with sprinkles on them, so you are psychic. It’s official. Love that Buzzcocks song. And you? And Easter? You are celebrating the big day in what fashion, may I ask? ** Steve Erickson, Yes, and I hope the blog can stay. That’s very far from being sure. (Dominic comment for explanation). I think I can say I haven’t done a post about cryptid corpses, no. It’s an idea, for sure. I’m ruminate accordingly. Thanks! ** Brian, Hi, Brian! Back, yes, for now at least. Good to see, man! Does the idea of moving out and surrounding yourself with a new school excite you? There is potential there for excitement, in theory at least. It also sounds kind of stressful too, I must admit. ‘TSotE’ is the perfect place to start with Bataille. It worked for me anyway. ‘The Incest Diary’ … mm, no, I don’t think I know it? I’ll go find out. ‘Omori’ intrigues me. I like that combo. Hm. No, Have some kind of block about actually getting the Switch. I keep thinking it should be a reward for something, but I keep not doing anything that deserves a reward. One of these days. It is painful not to have one. Hm. You have anabsolutely terrific weekend too, full of Easter-y things even, if that sounds fun. ** Right. I don’t need to tell you that the blog is giving you Paul Morrissey’s films this weekend, do I? See on Monday.


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11 Comments

  1. Hi!!

    Oh, fucking hell, I’m sorry to say this, Dennis, but this blog really is cursed! What a time-killing nightmare. And, of course, it would’ve been a lot easier to let you know at the very beginning that the blog’s storage capacity wasn’t endless so that you could just delete the surplus after posting a new entry every time but no… Fuck. I’m really sorry you have to deal with this. I’m almost afraid to ask whether the hacking is still going on too…?

    The new Gacy docuseries is called “John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise.” Extremely imaginative title, haha. But the series itself seems interesting so far.

    I’m glad to hear that at least the photo shoot went smoothly (even if you didn’t go Black Metal for it!). When does the article come out?

    This love sounds perfect and like a balm to my aching soul and pride because the proofreading company failed to pay for the psycho thesis due to some administrative error (at least that’s what they said, promising to resolve the issue as soon as possible, and I seriously hope that’s exactly what’ll happen…). Love taking a huge amount of speed and deleting all there is to delete from your blog’s storage space by the time you wake up tomorrow morning, Od.

  2. David Ehrenstein

    April 3, 2021 at 3:14 pm

    So nice to see a Paul Morrissey day, though I wonder if Paul would like it. H’s such a contrarian.

    Everything’s accounted for here save for “new From Nowhere” which he made several years back and has to my knowledge never been distributed anywhere. It stars Viva and some semi-articulate stud of the sort Paul favors and concerns “house-sitting” on Long Island.

    Paul’s so voracious when it comes his Warhol years it’s quite amusing. Andy made allhis films by himself before Paul got there. (I know I saw him shoot a number of them), and several were co-directed by other guys who weren’t Paul. Ronnie Tavel co-directed “The Life of Juanita Castro” which he also wrote. Chuck Wein co-directed the Edie Sedgwick movies AND “My Hustler’ Chuck slipped Paul some acid and threby rendered him uable to work on the project save for setting u the cmera.

    Of Paul’s Entirely HisOwn films Iike “Beethoven’s Nephew” best with “Mixed Blood” a close secon, followed by the “Frankenstein” and “Dracula” movies. The former is the best 3-D film I’ve verseen.

    I do wish “FortyDeuce” were available. It’s Kevin Bacon’s debut .Orson Bean co-stars and it was shot by Francois Reichenbach — of “F For Fake” fame. He was the George Platt Lynes acolyte and is where the title “Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train” comes from.

  3. Dennis, My God, my corpse…I really feel I’ll be one of those people living alone who dies and isn’t found for weeks and when I’m found my body will have exploded. But as long as I’m found not in the middle of jerking off or shitting then I think I’ll be okay with it.

    Not that I think about those things or anything, hahaha.

    No call for my mom. She called them, they said they’d get back and didn’t. She called the next day and finally talked to the nurse. They pancreas showed no mass. They’re doing another CT scan on the 9th to look at the kidneys and bladder and all that shit. Who knows what’s wrong with this woman?

    Ah, okay, so the 16th. I certainly hope that once a good number of people get vaccinated, things just open up normally and we can get this all behind us. There are some surges in cases here but they’re strangely in states that haven’t lifted their mask mandates/distancing restrictions. NY, NJ, MI, etc. Strangely, too, those are the same places that surged at the same time last year. Hmm.

    So I’ll be doing my stupid taxes this weekend. And maybe picking up a couple snails from my friend for our betta fish tanks. Well, Kayla’s tanks. Two 2-gallon tanks with a betta in each one. One is named Cherie and the other is Joan. Might indicate that Kayla is a big Runaways fan, hehehe.

  4. Hi, Dennis. That’s the first KoJack! Who loves ya, baby? I recall that “Mixed Blood” impressed me. Arno Juerging in “Flesh for Frankenstein” is a dead ringer for Nigel Tufnell of Spinal Tap. Yes, I’m psychic, but only in regards to pastries and veggie tacos. Got a section of FOKA accepted at Expat, so I’m stoked on that! I shall celebrate Easter by posting Jesus-Bunny memes. Hang in there. (You, not Jesus!) We all appreciate the devotion you pour into this grandest of all blogs. Luvz !! [P.S.: Hey, Sheree! Hi up there in the comments: “Video Coffin” was the ultimate. Thanx for reminding us! ]

  5. Ah, I was just looking at some Dallesandro stills from the old favorites. I should revisit them sometime.

    I only looked into a few Bandcamp items, mostly from old friends. This is great fun:
    https://rubbercitynoise.bandcamp.com/album/shrewd-wads-mpc-demo

    Also:
    https://universalreptile.bandcamp.com/album/manifest

    Watched Pasolini’s Oedipus Rex after your post. There are certainly some fine things in it, and stretches that are just… droll.

    By the way, I just noticed this is up:
    https://worldscinema.org/2021/03/philippe-garrel-la-cicatrice-interieure-aka-the-inner-scar-1972/

    Have you seen it? How is it?

    Bill

  6. Dennis, Thanks a ton!!! Very sorry to hear about the blog hassles. That does sound like a nightmare. Probably totally unrelated, but I found out when I was editing those Tungsten clips on iMovie that because I was saving them at a higher resolution than the original, extra render files are produced and you have to delete them to free up space. I didn’t know about that. Fingers crossed some kind of solution appears. Excellent day, btw, love Paul Morrissey’s films! Looking forward to seeing the whole Infinity Land anthology too. Had originally planned to be in London for the release, but don’t think that will happen now, big pity. By the time you read this, we’ll be driving to a cabin by a lake. First time away since what seems like forever. P xx

  7. Thanks, Dennis. I’m sure you’ll find the episode on your own, but I’ll send a link n an email anyway (i know your life goes a million miles an hour). Also, please excuse my horrendous Ayrshire accent!

    That’s so funny about James G. He and I also recently had a bizarre falling out, although he has since attempted to mend the situation. These mercurial types, eh?!

    Hope you’ll come back to Scotland soon – I definitely owe you a pint!

    Befire I go, I meant to ask: have you seen a film called They Look Like People? I watched a double bill with Saint Maude and was really impressed by it. It had that kind of threatening, quiet horror feel to it l, I’m sure you’d dig it.

    Chris

  8. TRASH, WOMEN IN REVOLT, FRANKENSTEIN & FORTY DEUCE are all pretty intriguing. After that point, I haven’t seen any Morrissey films. Jonathan Rosenbaum included a 1982 interview with Morrissey in a collection of his interviews even though FORTY DEUCE is the only Morrissey film he likes because he found Morrissey’s right-wing ranting so bizarre and entertaining, and that seems to be a constant thread in all his interviews. Vincent Gallo learned a lot from that persona. What happened to the Dogme film he talked about making?

    I just finished Brix Smith’s memoir. Disney is a running motif through it. “Disney’s Dream Debased” is one of my favorite Fall songs, and I knew it was based on a news item about a fatal accident on the Matterhorn. But I had no idea that Brix and Mark were there the day it happened and wrote it based on personal experience.

  9. Hey Dennis – Hope the blog troubles are alleviated soon and the solution isn’t too painful. Maybe some virtual sage is also in order to cleanse the place?

    Terrible and shocking news about Gian. Really blindsided by it. He was such a fearless publisher with great taste. Always admired how he was able to launch so many ‘challenging’ books so successfully. Apparently he was in NYC to finalize funding to expand Tyrant’s operations. A friend had a book coming from them soon, already edited, cover designed etc. Such a huge loss.

    Nice Paul Morrissey day. I love the work he did under Warhol’s umbrella and wasn’t familiar with the later stuff, esp. from the 80s. Have you seen much of it? Seems like maybe a steep falloff post-Andy?

    Excited to check out Paul Curran’s movie. Thanks for sharing that info.

  10. hey dennis, our new york online show is now up, thank you again for helping with it, love from ireland, alex,

    https://empiricalnonsense.today/end/on-the-death-of-biden

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