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Andy Warhol Presents Trash  

It was back to the 40th Chicago International Film Festival for this 1970 U.S. film, which was showing as one of the festival’s “revival” screenings.   I’d never seen any of the “Andy Warhol Presents” films so I thought I’d better check this one out.   These films are not to be confused with those that Warhol made (such as the eight-hour six-minute shot of the Empire State Building).   The pop artist had little to do with the “Presents” movies except to nominally act as “producer”, with Paul Morrissey often filling the director’s seat and the casts comprised of denizens of Warhol’s Factory.

“Andy Warhol Presents Trash” is interesting because although it’s a product of the late 60s New York counterculture, the film is actually quite anti-counterculture.   Morrisey was a notorious right-winger and “Trash” features an unsparing look at the counterculture on the wane.   The irony is that cultural conservatives would strenuously object to this film based on its degenerate subject matter and extremely explicit content.   The hero, Joe (Joe Dallesandro), has a raging heroin habit that has left him dysfunctional in a rather personal way.   Holly Woodlawn plays Holly, Joe’s live-in “girlfriend” (see explanation of quotations below).    

The film is actually a very funny comedy as well: Joe’s encounters include a vacuous hip bourgeois couple whose home he breaks into, whereupon the woman proceeds to hit on him and the man treats him like a junkie lab specimen.   He also meets various abrasively moronic, stoned hippie chicks and a crooked social worker who wears a peace pin on his lapel.  

This screening was a treat because Holly Woodlawn was in attendance!   Students of Warhol’s Factory scene will know that Woodlawn was the cross-dressing “superstar” (Warhol’s term for the “actors” who appeared in the films he produced) who is immortalized in Lou Reed’s 1972 tune “Walk on the Wild Side”:

“Holly came from Miami F.L.A/
Hitchhiked her way across the U.S.A/
Plucked her eyebrows on the way/
Shaved her legs and then he was a she”.

Woodlawn still appears in drag 34 years after “Trash” and though suffering from spinal stenosis, he/she is still an amusingly abrasive character: honest and, in her own weird way, endearing.   She looks something like a warped Barbara Streisand.   Her performance in “Trash” is actually quite affecting.

This one’s out on DVD but I would certainly NOT recommend it to anyone who’s not a fan of underground film or who doesn’t have an interest in the late 60s New York counterculture.   I think it’s an important film, though: Morrissey was a fiercely independent filmmaker and “Trash” is an example of truly independent film as opposed to the commercialized “Hollywood independents” that we often get today.   It takes us places mainstream films fear to go and stays with us after they’ve faded from memory.  


- Oct 22, 2004  

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