The story of Joe [Dallesandro] and his lover-protector, Holly [Woodlawn], who is something to behold, a comic book Mother Courage who fancies herself as Marlene Dietrich but sounds more ... See full summary »
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Lacking a formal narrative, Warhol's art house classic follows various residents of the Chelsea Hotel in 1966 New York City, presented in a split screen with a single audio track in conjunction with one side of screen.
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Anne De Salvo
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The story of Joe [Dallesandro] and his lover-protector, Holly [Woodlawn], who is something to behold, a comic book Mother Courage who fancies herself as Marlene Dietrich but sounds more like Phil Silvers. Joe and Holly try to make a go of things in their Lower East Side basement, from which Holly goes forth from time to time to cruise the Fillmore East and to scavenge garbage cans, while Joe's journeys are in search of real junk... Trash is true-blue movie-making, funny and vivid.--Vincent Canby, The New York Times. Written and directed by Paul Morrissey, "presented" by Andy Warhol. Written by
In the winter of 1970, Holly Woodlawn received a telegram from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences informing her that the legendary, Oscar-winning director George Cukor had started a campaign to get the Academy to nominate her for an Academy Award for "Trash," supported by petitions whose signatories included Ben Gazzara and Oscar-winner 'Joanne Woodward'. See more »
It don't do anything, Geri.
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Trash does everything a good underground movie should: it portrays a squalid milieu unabashedly; it deconstructs cinema technique to the point of obliterating it; it provides the kind of transgressive kicks that can normally only be had in places frequented by men in raincoats. It's a sick movie but it's far from repulsive. Spatially it's a disaster, and performance-wise it's even worse, but the rawness of it, the (nearly) complete lack of pretense, is refreshing given the false nobility of so many films that seek to criticize the same dregs, the same lower-rung wash-outs, that this movie unflinchingly presents. The film offers undistilled squalor, unfiltered dubious behavior, but does so with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek.
The "plot" is a loosely connected series of episodes involving the strangely magnetic Joe Dallesandro's encounters with various women, all of whom want to get in his pants. What Joe wants is not sex but drugs; he's an unapologetic junkie whose life entails drifting from one partner to another, holing up here and there, doing whatever women want as long as he thinks they'll give him money. And what an array of women: first there's the young go-go dancer (Geri Miller) who does a charming nude frolic to a rock and roll tune; then there's Holly (the drag queen Holly Woodlawn), Joe's main source of housing and income, a buck-toothed broad (?) who furnishes her apartment with garbage she picks up off the side of the road (her coffee table is a lobster-trap). And of course we mustn't forget the woman identified only as Rich Girl (Andrea Feldman), a Grosse Pointe, Michigan deb, transplanted to New York, whose house Joe breaks into, much to her delight. The most memorable sequence involves Rich Girl, who becomes giddy at the prospect of the muscular, well-endowed Joe raping her (she invites him to do it on the couch), then helps Joe bathe while her husband (Rich Guy?) waits in the living room. The performance of Andrea Feldman can only be described as gratingly off-key, but Feldman, with her plucked eyebrows and fabulous bone-structure, is fun to watch anyway, doing the most outrageous, unfair caricature of upper-crust vacuity imaginable. The sequence reaches a kind of crazy comic height when Joe starts shooting heroin with Rich Girl and her hubby watching, Rich Girl rattling on and on about how she's never seen anyone shoot drugs before, and has never done drugs herself, and was a virgin when she married her husband, the heaviness of Dallesandro's muscular, veiny body providing a kind of counterpoint to the vapid, nasally flow of words. Much of the movie hinges on the contrast between Dallesandro's druggy torpor, his eyes barely able to focus, and the nervous energy thrown off by the various women. The parade of horrendous, high-pitched female acting streams past while Dallesandro remains immovable, a lean, sexually-indifferent force of nature.
It's amazing to watch Dallesandro, a man devoid of anything you might call talent but blessed with more raw magnetism than most Hollywood stars. You can't say that he has personality, exactly, but he does have an overpowering physical presence, and a strangely likable quality that he conveys almost in spite of himself. He spends almost the entire movie listening to women babble, enduring their clumsy seductions, and what makes it all so funny is how oblivious he is, how unconcerned with anything but figuring out how to score more smack. Joe (the character) is a man of total integrity - he makes no particular effort to ingratiate himself, and doesn't pretend to be anything other than what he is. Director Paul Morrissey has an enormous affection for Joe, who he sees as a silent movie character, a smack-head Little Tramp (the film opens and closes with a tune straight out of a silent movie). Had the film been made in the twenties, Joe would've been the dogged hero suffering the abuses of society while never losing his dignity or his hat; in the '60s, Joe is not dignified so much as impenetrably dense, and whatever drives him forward is not doggedness but a kind of blind instinct for survival. Society's abuses are not delineated much (except in the clankingly phony last scene, where Joe and Holly try to swindle a crooked Welfare rep, and the tone becomes almost self-righteous), but there's always this suggestion of forces at work against Joe and his companions, the looming specter of injustice.
The film is consistent in its anti-film aesthetic, its transgressive attitude, its sub-hard-core sense of shock. It's not an avant-garde film in the same knowing, self-absorbed way as one of Kenneth Anger's fetishistic, devilish orgies. It has an innocence to it, the innocence of two kids playing doctor in the bushes. It's not the kind of movie that wants to beat you over the head with hipness; it's a surprisingly accessible film, at times a lovable one. Of course it helps not to be too uptight when viewing it: a catalogue of the film's more explicit content includes oral-sex (shot from behind the man, the woman's hands all over his pimply butt); some rather blunt, not-particularly-erotic "regular" sex; numerous images of Dallesandro's impressive member; penetration-by-beer-bottle; and, of course, lots of needles going into veins (and one pubescent backside). In another film this might all seem repugnant, even irresponsible, but in Trash this material represents the mere facts of life. And who but the most easily offended could get riled about the facts of life?
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