DOASKDOTELL Reviews of Movies associated with Andy Warhol (incl. I Shot Andy Warhol, Factory Girl)

Flesh ("Andy Warhol's Flesh", 1968, Sherpix/Image, dir. and wr. Paul Morrissey, produced by Andy Warhol; NR but would probably be NC-17 in today's system) is one of the better known "Andy Warhol" movies from the late 60s protest era. It was the only one that I could find on DVD with Netflix. I recall seeing "Trash" and "Lonesome Cowboys" when in my late 20s, after I had started working and was living in New Jersey and visiting NYC often, but I don't remember them well. Andy Warhol was a rather popular icon among soldiers, however heterosexual they were, when I served in the Army. Joe Dellesandro, often shown in posters with his red bandana, is the stud who starred in many of these films. This one opens with a bedroom shot of an incredibly handsome young man, starting with the great hairy legs (they are perfect, even though we see the actor smoke cigarettes later), moving around the body to the smooth chest. Warhol is stating visually his artistic idea of male youth (the actor was 19 or 20 when this film was made), and he may share the homosexual sentiments of Oscar Wilde, but here there is no real message, it is just the way things are and the way they come out. Joe's wife Geri (Geraldine Smith) harasses him to get up, but then they make out in a scene that would befit the Song of Solomon in the Old Testament. Soon Joe will sell himself to pay for an abortion for Patti (Patti d'Arbanville), who is Geri's lover. Get it? Again, this all comes out. There is an intriguing and tender scene between Joe and a Vietnam veteran David (Louis Waldon), where they hug and caress, where David brags that his armpit hair grew back despite napalm burns, and where David then asks Joe why Joe insists on marriage, "as gay as you are!" The film looks amateurish and simple, bare bones, and the DVD has annoying blurps. The scene where a porno producer critiques Joe's bods and finds love handles when there are none is genuinely funny. In a few places, the original theatrical release was confiscated by police as some people thought the film obscene.

Morrissey directed many of Warhol's films; Warhol's own work was mostly art.

Trash ("Andy Warhol's Trash", 1970, Cinema 5, Jour de Fete / Image / FilmFactory, dir. Pau; Morrissey, NC-17, 109 min) chases Joe through the campy sewers of life as a heroin addict, scenes of needles going in, and plenty of nilhistic dialogue and "comedy." In one scene, another college age man, dressed in suit and tie, is defrocked; in still another a rich woman brings him over and he almost OD's in front of her husband. The word "Trash" used to be used by a 50s parent's magazines for some films, but Warhol wanted that for this. The characters get less real interest in this film than in "Flesh."

A famous line from Holly Woodlawn: "I need welfare. I deserve it." As my Army buddies would have said, "put that in The Proles." 

When I was getting out of the Army in 1970, going to an Andy Warhol movie was a kind of acceptable rebellion. Here Joe Dallesandro and Holly Woodlawn are out to get what they want at the animal level -- sex, drugs, and welfare. And this is a Nixon-era film.

For unrelated Showtime film by the same name go here.

Heat (Andy Warhol's Heat, Marvin/Image, dir. Paul Morrissey, 100 min, NC-17) this time takes Joey Davis (Joe D'allesandro) to LA where he rents a flea-bag motel and sells himself, literally, to try to get a movie made, in a parody of "Sunset Boulevard" . There is a scene where Sally Todd's lesbian daughter tries to get Joey to babysit her baby -- involuntary child care. There is also an early scene about landlords -- absolutely no noise late at night is allowed in this "apartment" which is built with the thinnest sheetrock. No relation to several other films by this name.

American Masters: Andy Warhol (2005, dir. Ric Burns, 240 min) is a biography of famous filmmaker and artist Andrew Warhola  born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1928. He grew up in an industrial or steelworking community that resembled his ancestors' eastern Europe. He was a sensitive boy, somewhat like the character of "Tea and Sympathy," and besides that, somewhat effeminate and suspected of homosexuality. In his personal life, he was sensitive or modest about his own body, and concerned about his acne and thinning hair, to the point that he once attempted skin peeling (now an accepted treatment). He preferred to "watch" intimacy rather than participate in it. He resented the idea of being expected to "compete" like "normal" men. In his teen years, everyone recognized his unique artistic talent. He tended to render what he saw, without the idea that a drawing had to convey progression or deep thought; it was a "here it is" mentality. His art was receptive, not oriented toward narrative or storytelling. In adulthood, the art world expressed controversy over whether his approach was really "art"; but he changed the way Americans think about art and even think about themselves.

The second half of this film chronicles his film career, where he often presented banal events (like his lover sleeping) for simple voyeurism (like Blue Movie). He came to befriend a radical actress  Valerie Solanis, notorious for her SCUM Manifesto ("Society for Cutting Up Men) and a theory that the Y chromosome made men genetically (and therefore sexually) inferior (an idea that would catch the attention of conservatives like George Gilder in the 1980s).

I Shot Andy Warhol (1995, Samuel Goldwyn/Orion, dir Mary Harron, 103 min, R) is not from PBS but goes on this page as a compelling an graphic biography of Valerie Solanis. She (Valerie Jean Solanis is played by Lili Taylor, as a "stereotyped" mannish "lesbian") gives away her manifesto when no one will pay for it, and in one scene Andy Warhol (Jared Harris), at a dinner, tells her to show up for a shoot and get paid $25 rather than panhandle. Her relationship with Andy shows the indignation that occurs within any community of "friends."  There are lively gay disco scenes--when in New York in the mid 1960s gay bars were being closed down (unless protected by the Mafia) because of the Worlds Fair and because of rumors of incidents there. It got so bad people went to Boston. The shooting scene (the incident occurred in 1968) is quite simple and well acted.

Factory Girl (2006, MGM/The Weinstein Company, dir. George Hickenlooper, prod. Bob and Harvey Weinstein and Bob Yari, wr. Captain Mauzner, 90 min, R, p-2,a-3,t-1) is the story of Edie Sedgwick (Sienna Miller) and indirectly another sizzling picture of Andy Warhol (Guy Pearce), with a frank exploration of the morality (good or bad) of his life and works. Yes, Warhol, at least according to this film, would "use" her and essentially throw her away for $50, and she would die at 28 of a drug overdose after attempting rehab in California. That would happen around 1971. Then why does the film make no mention of Valerie Solaris and the shooting? Probably because it would complicate the story and double the length of the film. But a film that shows both women, in dramatic rather than documentary fashion, would do much more justice to the subject and to our understanding of Warhol's significance.

"The Factory" was Warhol's studio, and it looked a bit like a loft. It wasn't that seedy of a place. The somewhat choppy narrative style of the film gives us a lot of grainy black-and-white clips from various opuses of Warhol. One S&M scene shows one young man ripping open the shirt of another and pouring hot depilitating wax on the "victim's" chest, as the mark screams. That was supposedly from "Lionel" which doesn't appear in imdb. Gradually, Edie gets into the movies, and buys Warhol's thesis "Everybody wants to be famous." She spends down her trust quickly, and her father (James Naughton) comes to New York and takes her and Warhol out to lunch, at 1965 prices. Dad says to Warhol, to his face, that Warhol is not so much an artist as just a print framer. Then, during the repast he admits that Warhol is no threat to deflower his daughter because (as he says to Warhol), "you're a queer!"  Not that many people in the Washington DC audience laughed, in a film and community expected to attract a large LGBT audience (which it has). In the meantime, Edie has been dating folk singer Billy Quinn (Hayden Christensen), who pretty much takes over the scenes in which he is in, as the only "real man" in the script, perhaps. Like her family, Billy becomes disenchanted with her association with Warhol, especially after Warhol gives him a screen test and belittles him. He warns her that Warhol will use her, which Warhol does. It is not clear, however, from other historical accounts, that Warhol was always that "heartless."

The movie leaves us, thought at some distance, to ponder the clash of cultures in Warhol's world (which in New York City was just becoming more sympathetic to gays, in the pre-Stonewall days). Ordinary men "compete" to provide a biological legacy, and artists like Warhol, who may perceive themselves as "non competitive" in a conventional sense, seem to pass judgment on the fitness of those who do procreate families. Or do they? Warhol, remember, had no real interest in story, just in capturing experience for its own sake, as a voyeur. Some people see Warhol as nihilistic, and others see his sense of "nothingness" as a real statement.

Guy Pearce is heavily made up to really look like Warhol, down to the acne-pocked face and almost hairless arms. This would not have been a comfortable role to act.

 Reviews of PBS films

The website for the Andy Warhol Museum in downtown Pittsburgh is this. Through March 18, 2007 that museum has hosted a exhibit from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum called "Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race". The online exhibits are at this link, and the specific exhibit is here. There is the startling banner from Nazi propaganda: "Our starting point is not the individual, and we do not subscribe to the view that one should feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, or clothe the naked... or objectives are entirely different: we must have a health peoples in order to prevail in the world."  This statement contains its own internal contradiction, if you think about it, and that may help explain Nazi extermination of homosexuals sometimes by men who may have been homosexual themselves. There is an AP story by Dan Nephin, "Eugenics: Perverted medicine: Exhibit traces quest for the master race," at this link in the "Life: Science & Technology" column of the Metropolitan Section of The Washington Times, Section B, March 15, 2007. The article quotes Warhol Museum director Tom Sokolowski as saying, "We need to be aware that the view of perfection, whether in humanity or in art, can under the aegis of someone with a twisted or very focused agenda lead to this kind of negative and horrific actions that took place in the late 30s and 40s." Indeed, Warhol's own art was somewhat "anti-perfectionistic," even if some of his models (like Dellesandro) could come across as ideals of young male "perfection."  (The phrase "perverted medicine" brings to mind a another phrase, "Perverted Justice", the name of a group that helps catch online sexual predators.)

I will try to visit Warhol's museum soon, even if after the exhibit leaves. It brings to mind a troubling question: if one accepts sexual attraction based on narcissistic ideals (and you have to admit that theme appears in Warhol's work), does this become dangerous when embraced by official culture, at least if not balanced by some counter-balancing cultural imperative to bind people to others emotionally based on need? Welcome to the arguments for national service. 

Bad (1977, New World / Cheezy, dir. Jed Johnson) is Warhol's last feature and a wicked black comedy. Carroll Baker ("Baby Doll") plays Hazel Aiken, who, compelled to support relatives, starts an electrolysis hair-removal business (she can remove 698 hairs an hour), and a business of doing hits, where she hires women, and finally the drifter L. T. (Perry King), who balks when he finds out how horrific the snuff crime is. There is a line, after a set movie fire, "it's a good thing we were showing a bad movie last night." Later on one of the women throws a baby out of a window, in a horrific scene. There is other amusing dialogue of days gone by, like telephone "message units."

Andy Warhol Museum Films. Blogger entry. for more details on these films.

Water (1971, dir. Andy Warhol, 33 min)

Factory Dairies (1972): Montauk & Hamptons, Edited Tapes (38 min)

(International)

I Don't Want to Sleep Alone (2006, (“Hei yen quan”, Strand Releasing, 2006, Tsai Ming-laing, 115 min, R), a curious examination of the lives of street people in the poor sections of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, crossing many nationalities.

Tears of the Black Tiger (“Fah talai jone,” 2001, Magnolia / Film Bangkok, dir. Wisit Sasanatieng, novel by Sor Jindalong, 110 min, Thailand, R) A spoof of the spaghetti "Italian western" in the Dollars style with abstract colorized sets in greens and pinks (even the blood is pink), and the "model railroad" look is gorgeous at times.  The people look more Caucasian than in other Asian films. While paying homage to traditions of family honor and custom, the film has good fun with these ideas. Suwinit Panjamawat, Stella Malucchi.  A love story with the stereotyped plot twists and climax, it does not take itself too seriously. 

Absolut Warhola (2004, TLA, dir. Stanislaw Mucha, 80 min) is a documentary about the hometown in Slovakia of Andy's ancestors, Mikova, and the museum in Medzilabaforce. There are indeed some disparaging remarks about Andy's rumored homosexuality among the townspeople.

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