Sunday, February 11, 2007

Several different views of Andy Warhol

When I was in the Army, in the 1968-1970 time period, "Andy Warhol movies" were thought of as a healthful outlet for anti-system rebellion, even by straight soldiers. I remember Joe Dellessandro and films like "Trash" and "Lonesome Cowboys", and recently I rented "Flesh." The films are not more explicit than a lot of things made today, and there is a certain warmth to them (as a scene in "Flesh" where Joe is told by a dear friend "... as gay as you are".)
PBS featured an American Masters documentary in 2006, in two 120-minute parts, and presented Warhol as an innovative artist, even if his style was to assimilate and record impressions (like of soup cans) rather than tell a real story. An important indie film of the 90s was "I Shot Andy Warhol," (1995, Samuel Goldwyn/Orion, dir Mary Harron, 103 min, R) a biography of radical Valerie Solanis, known for her notorious SCUM Manifesto, self-published and indeed a screed not read by too many people outside of the "choir." Solanis was one of the women that Warhol "used" and supposedly discarded, and led to her assassination attempt in 1968. Then The Weinstein Company released Factory Girl (2006, MGM/The Weinstein Company, dir. George Hickenlooper, prod. Bob and Harvey Weinstein and Bob Yari, wr. Captain Mauzner, 90 min, R). The title refers to Warhol's studio as a "factory" but movie tells the story of another of his actresses, Edie Sedgwick (Sienna Miller). Guy Pearce, heavily made up, is convincing as the pock-marked Warhol, and Hayden Christensen's charima takes the part of rock singer and Sedgwick boyfried Billy Quinn outside, almost making a sub movie.

We are left with wondering if we are supposed to contemplate Warhol's moral position. He was somewhat of a voyeur who made it by giving an urban segment of society the release it wanted to see -- while seeming to pass judgment on the artificially competitive values of the male, family and domain oriented heterosexual world which he had left behind in Pittsburgh. One of Warhol's famous quotes is "Everybody wants to be famous." But not everyone has the right to be famous. That has to be earned.

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