Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Frameline Film Fest: Little Joe

This review originally appeared on the San Francisco Appeal.

My mother is crazy about Joe Dallesandro, and always has been. I don't know when I became aware of who he is, but it definitely coincided with knowing my mother had a raging and undying crush on the guy, so there was no doubt who I'd be taking along to the documentary Little Joe on Saturday, as it played as part of the Frameline Festival at the Castro.

Joe Dallesandro was one of Andy Warhol's Superstars; was immortalized in the Lou Reed song "Walk on the Wild Side;" and it's his crotch pictured on the cover of the Rolling Stones album Sticky Fingers. He was certainly one of the most beautiful men to grace the screen in the early 70s, even if his acting often left something to be desired.

The lines into the theater snaked around in two directions on Castro street, and the theater was so packed they had to open the balcony to accommodate everyone. This came as no surprise. Joe Dallesandro's cult following is largely a gay one, and he is, as one member of the audience dubbed him post-film, "the gay men's Marilyn Monroe;" a legendary sex object. As luck would have it, Joe Dallesandro himself was in attendance, and when the introductions to the film were being given, there he stood in the balcony, mere seats away from where we were sitting. My mother was thrilled, to say the least.

The documentary is unique in that the only person talking about Little Joe in the film is Little Joe himself. There's no one else giving their opinion about why Joe was considered such a sex god; you just have to look at the guy to understand that. So we hear Joe talking about his teen years and stealing cars; getting involved with the Factory; and questioning director Paul Morrissey's directing style, which always required Joe to strip and improvise dialogue, and often entire movie plots. The doc is filled with a wealth of images and film clips, including clips from the films Dallesandro did while living in Italy, many of which never made their way back to the States. Any fan of Joe's will not be disappointed by this documentary, and while the story may be a bit one-sided, it's an incredibly entertaining side.

The film was produced by his daughter, Vedra Mehagian, and directed by Nicole Haeusser, on a limited budget. Sometimes that shows. Dallesandro is often hard to understand, and it sounds like he wasn't miked for much of his interview footage, with the audio instead being picked up by the mic on the camera. That paired with the Castro Theater's infamously bad acoustics often led to long moments that were just impossible to hear. Hopefully, a DVD release will happen.

After the screening, Dallesandro, his daughter, and the director took the stage to answer questions, and some of those moments can be viewed on his MySpace page. After the Q&A was over, we made our way downstairs, and as we were leaving the lobby from a side door, Joe was emerging the theater at the same time, and brushed right past us; (he's about my height; he ain't called "Little Joe" for nothing). Thankfully, my mother didn't go nuts and attack the guy, but I was happy that after all these years of fandom, she was able to get THIS CLOSE to her object of desire.

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