One of the more mysterious figures in the New York underground that circled around figures like Smith and Warhol, Piero Heliczer was born in Italy to a Polish father and German mother, appeared in films as a budding child star, before emigrating to the US in the ‘40s. Heliczer established the Dead Language Press in 1957, from Paris, where he would publish writings by Smith, along with beat authors such as Gregory Corso. He returned to the US in the ‘60s, via London – along the way, he would work with British film maker Jeff Keen, and create a number of excellent, mysterious films, all while working on his poetry (in 2001, Granary published a collection of Heliczer’s writings, A Purchase In The White Botanica). Heliczer was among the first to film the Velvet Underground, for his 1965 short, Venus In Furs; around this time, he also made Dirt, a deceptively simple film about which Jonas Mekas noted, “Its beauty is very personal and lyrical. And every frame of it is cinema.” It is, indeed, a lovely, understated work, which steals something of the everyday poetry of life from the air of the times.
Heliczer, along with The Velvet Underground, also appeared on CBS News, for a brief segment on underground films – you can view that segment here