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Plain old Trash.

A 30th-anniversary revival recalls the impotence and impudence of a "Warhol" classic

Trash * Written and direcred by Paul Morrissey * Starring Joe Dallesandro, Geri Miller, Holly Woodlawn * Jour de Fete Films

If the pimples on Joe Dallesandro's butt could talk, oh, the stories they could tell. Joe's zits are literally the first things we see in Paul Morrissey's Trash, now being revived after 30 years, and they seem to be calling to us: "Come to me, here am I, Bali Ha'i, your special island."

But paradise is nowhere to be found in the staggering folds of Dallesandro's body, which at the tender age of 20 was obviously still feeling the aftershocks of puberty. His character, Joe, an East Village junkie on the prowl for his next fix of heroin, is so blotto from mainlining he can barely utter "pass the needle," let alone poke the women hankering to get into his pants.

The press material being flung about in conjunction with this anniversary release makes all kinds of claims for Trash--originally called Andy Warhol's Trash, to milk the box-office potential of its celebrity producer--as a milestone in independent cinema (Presaged the no-frills Dogma style from Denmark! Predated the improvisational methods of '80s indies! Pioneered the enlightened use of cross-gendered actors!). What is most notable, perhaps, is that it's one of the first comedies about a guy who can't get it up.

Working at a time when queers were still looking to straight scenarios for their celluloid daydreams, Morrissey created a subversive alternative in Dallesandro's drugstore cowboy. Joe was the date-rape fantasy of one's wildest nightmares: the humpy, theoretically bisexual but ultimately unresponsive sexual object. Lesbians could revel, if they so chose, in the endless parade of luscious hippie chicks ripping their tops off in futile attempts to get a rise out of their man. For homo guys, Morrissey exposed Dallesandro's torso at every opportunity, thumbing his nose (and Joe's cock) at his contemporaries' heterosexist aversion to the male form.

The veiled, flaccid homoeroticism of Morrissey's Trash expressed the unfulfilled queer passions of the day (The Boys in the Band was the other quasilegit screen offering of 1970). Our carnal frustrations and longings were given voice by Joe's on-screen girlfriend Holly Woodlawn, a drag sister with too much blue eye shadow, an overbite, and a lisping outer-borough delivery. When she fakes a pregnancy for a welfare investigator and confides, "My father minces vegetables at Blimpie's," she could be the love child of Barbra Streisand and Elmer Fudd.

Woodlawn and Dallesandro make a great vaudeville team: She's the screwball yin to his brain-fried yang. There is something heartbreaking in the comic spectacle of Woodlawn picking up teenagers at the Fillmore East or servicing herself with an empty bottle of Miller High Life because she can't get no satisfaction from her Joe. It's hard to think of any other film that both satirizes and simulates the inertia and banality of life amid the late-'60s counterculture. Trash unfolds near New York's St. Mark's Place, but it feeds off the disaffected energies of 20-somethings as far as Fillmore West and Haight-Ashbury.

Thirty years later, one significant element of Morrissey's laconic parody sticks in our craw: his women. There is an unpleasant aftertaste of misogyny in the strident and bimbotic improvisations of all the groupies who natter mindlessly as Joe bathes or shoots up. Dallesandro's pimpled butt may be a thing of beauty, but neither it nor the movie that made it a star is a joy forever.

Stuart is film critic and senior film writer at Newsday.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Stuart, Jan
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Movie Review
Date:Mar 28, 2000
Words:591
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