(1968)2Craig ButlerAs with many of Paul Morrissey's films, Flesh is definitely not for everyone. Leaving aside the film's avant-garde nature as a reason for some to feel excluded, there's an extreme abundance of the titular subject on display here, most of it male and a great deal located south of the abdominal equator -- so anyone with an aversion to sex and/or nudity should simply not even bother. Those who prefer a strong narrative, clearly defined motivations and themes, precise structural details in the screenplay, polished dialogue, Oscar-calibre performances, swift pacing, razor-sharp editing, and/or professional-level sound and camerawork can also look elsewhere. For the minority that's left, however, Flesh is likely to be something of a revelation -- a revelation of exactly what is hard to say, but those tuned in to Morrissey's peculiar wave will likely find the extreme lengthy shots strangely hypnotic; the jarring jump cuts exciting; the largely improvised dialogue enlivening, amusing and revealing; the naturalistic acting style (especially of the naïvely charismatic Joe Dallesandro) fascinating and compelling; and the entire atmosphere of alienation, melancholy, and aimlessness surprisingly touching. While Flesh lacks almost all of the qualities that make a good film, it still is a unique and hard-to-forget experience that almost unconsciously makes the viewer wonder if anyone can ever really be at home in his own flesh.
Flesh was filmmaker Paul Morrissey's first production for Andy Warhol. The story concerns a bisexual hustler (Joe Dallesandro) who does tricks so that he can pay for his wife's lover's abortion. The film made headlines when it was confiscated by the police during one of its earliest showings in 1970. Though this event is unlikely to repeat itself, Flesh is still explicit enough to elicit gasps from even the most jaded of underground-film enthusiasts.