andy warhol as filmmaker

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i wouldn't go so far as to say that his films are totally without interest (i'm thinking of the things he actually had a big part in making, not the later paul morrissey stuff) but they come as close to that category as any celebrated films i know

the positive criticisms of warhol all seem to hinge on some Big Idea (usually a 'transgressive' one) that the film in question embodies or illustrates, rarely actually praising the films as an experience in time

i suppose if i were writing a book on film history i'd include him as a kind of 'limit case', and he has usefulness for that, but c'mon

i write this because i keep getting emails telling me about screenings of obscure and not so obscure warhol films seemingly everywhere, and i get this strong feeling of 'good riddance'

amateur!st (amateurist), Thursday, 19 February 2004 17:43 (sixteen years ago) link

i think that, what i find interesting in warhols films, is the continued (inadvertent?) deconstruction of object/aura/auter.

that said, i find some of his films, meditative, beautiful and not v. transgressive.

(c/c nan goldin/john cassevetes/naim jan paik)

anthony, Thursday, 19 February 2004 18:07 (sixteen years ago) link

see anthony no offense but that first line is exactly the kind of 'praise' i balk at

what do you mean?

is it enjoyable/interesting to actually watch the films, especially the really long ones? you say they are meditative, do you find them engrossing? if so, good. that would be a form of praise i can accept. (even if i personally have a difft reaction)

cassavetes seems like a totally different story (i have problems with him too)

amateur!st (amateurist), Thursday, 19 February 2004 18:10 (sixteen years ago) link

I've seen two Andy Warhol films. One was of the Velvet Underground rehearsing, and was great crack if you like the Velvet Underground.

The other was the worst film I have ever seen. I still don't know why I didn't walk out of it. It was transgressive by being incredibly boring.

DV (dirtyvicar), Thursday, 19 February 2004 21:11 (sixteen years ago) link

is your point, amateur!st, that people shouldn't express admiration for something that they don't enjoy? Or that these radical qualities of Warhol's films count for nothing if they do not increase the pleasure for the viewer?

Anthony seems to be in some sort of agreement with this position because he can't see how a film can be transgressive if it is beautiful - hence, he too puts pleasure and radicalism in opposition to one another.

btw, DV, I think boredom is really underestimated in our attention-seeking, fun-complusive economy of culture...

Consider the position Terry Eagleton takes in his new book: radical politics is the re-education desire. Radical culture - culture that challenges our inherited codes of pleasure - is not the antidote to pleasure, it is the liberator of marginalised pleasures.

run it off (run it off), Friday, 20 February 2004 08:28 (sixteen years ago) link


Let's translate Eagleton into plain English:
We will teach you how to want to buy or fuck something other than you do now; and there we have the definition of radical politics. Radical culute is as emergence of buying things and fucking things in ways that are not currently commonly visible and approved by mainstream culture.

Call me a nut, but radical politics is about root change in society, which is accomplished not by training yourself what to want to buy or fuck, but is working on a political/policy/cultural level to make widespread legal, policy, and in the the extreme case revolution and governmental change. The vocabulary of desire de-politicizes the political!

Orbit (Orbit), Friday, 20 February 2004 08:36 (sixteen years ago) link

Orbit, Eagleton doesn't mean one set of people (who you call 'we') will teach another set of people (you mean 'us' I think) how to do things, what to like, and so on. He means, people engaged in radical political movements are so utterly transformed by those movements that it doesn't just change the external conditions of their lives, but changes how they feel, what they take pleasure from, and so on. The vocabulary of desire is essential to radical politics if it isn't to be merely an administrative affair.

run it off (run it off), Friday, 20 February 2004 08:54 (sixteen years ago) link

how will warhol's films accomplish this and do we need to see them for it to work?

amateur!st (amateurist), Friday, 20 February 2004 10:12 (sixteen years ago) link

how will Warhol's films accomplish what?

run it off (run it off), Friday, 20 February 2004 10:20 (sixteen years ago) link

i rest my case

amateur!st (amateurist), Friday, 20 February 2004 10:28 (sixteen years ago) link


run it off (run it off), Friday, 20 February 2004 10:30 (sixteen years ago) link

I didn't mean "oh my god, Warhol's films can't achieve anything!"

I meant "tell me what you think Warhol's films should achieve"

run it off (run it off), Friday, 20 February 2004 10:32 (sixteen years ago) link

before you answer (if your case can be revived) perhaps you'd like to think about this. If Warhol's film takes part in an incomplete but radical shift of cultural perpectives (including pleasures), this does not mean that Warhol's film are the self-sufficient cause of those transformations. The 'success' of the films, therefore, depends in part on the success of the counter-culture of which they are a part. It is fallacious to argue that Warhol's films don't achieve anything simply on the grounds that they don't achieve these things by themselves.

run it off (run it off), Friday, 20 February 2004 10:41 (sixteen years ago) link

the purpose of art to my mind, is to organize pleasure, so i can't answer your question

amateur!st (amateurist), Friday, 20 February 2004 11:42 (sixteen years ago) link

I can't think of a canonical filmmaker who I have less desire to see than Warhol (not that anyone actually 'watches' his films). Like 4'33 they're just an idea to think on, talk about. Gimme Tashlin. Gimme Siodmak. Gimme E A Dupont. These are neglected filmmakers.

ENRQ (Enrique), Friday, 20 February 2004 11:55 (sixteen years ago) link

what are the paul morrissey films like? are they terrible?

pulpo, Friday, 20 February 2004 13:27 (sixteen years ago) link

btw, DV, I think boredom is really underestimated in our attention-seeking, fun-complusive economy of culture...

I am at work now and am very bored. but at least they are paying me to be here. they weren't paying me to see that Warhol film.

DV (dirtyvicar), Friday, 20 February 2004 13:38 (sixteen years ago) link

It's a silly-sentence. How is culture 'attention-seeking' exactly? And isn't Warhol himself the apogee of attention-seeking anyway?

NERQ (Enrique), Friday, 20 February 2004 13:39 (sixteen years ago) link

ive seen sleep, empire and the morissey films, (and would kill for a dvd of the screen tests)

how do i say this w/o theory--they are noise for the eyes, washing all of the debris of charachter, narrative, etc out in the deluge of pure form.

now that i got that out of my system.

i think that beauty is can be transgressive, and by sheer concentration, these films are both.

(its like we are supposed to work work work work, everything has to be work, everything has to be about the worker, the artist in his workshop making work, and warhol takes the xian day of rest, and amplfies it--fuck work, fuck artist as worker, listen and rest) i find that arresting.

anthony, Friday, 20 February 2004 15:49 (sixteen years ago) link

If I want to rest, I'll take a lie-down. Why would I want to watch a boring film while I'm about it?

NERQ (Enrique), Friday, 20 February 2004 15:55 (sixteen years ago) link

I like the Warhol films that I've seen cuz I like to gawk at the wild, the beautiful and the damned (and the boring, oh well.) I don't think that Warhol had a shred of political or philisophical agenda in mind when he made these movies; I'm sure he was just thinking "ooh, let me shoot some film of these weirdos hanging around the studio and see what happens. Maybe some of the cute guys will take off their clothes."

Morrissey's films are like indie films of the time; for a rough analogue think maybe John Waters. His 70s Italian horror duo (Blood for.../Flesh for...) are like Hammer films, but with better scripts, acting, and cinematography.

Sean (Sean), Friday, 20 February 2004 15:57 (sixteen years ago) link

Warhol's films are to mainstream cinema what Impressionism was to Salon painting. Almost everyone within the Academy hated Impressionism and couldn't see the point of it. In short, Academicians took absolutely no pleasure from Impressionism and, at the same time, could see no value in it. This does not mean that Impressionist paintings are not pleasurable, or that they have no value. If the mainstream takes no pleasure in something, that doesn't mean that the avantgarde is merely trying to shock or be difficult; it generally means that they are interested in a different set of pleasures and values. Warhol's films are not the same as sitting at your desk bored but glad that you're getting paid for the time (minus the payment, in Warhol's case). Warhol's films aspire to an alternative set of values and pleasures. He talked about how the outtakes of mainstream cinema were better than the final films because in the outtakes it can be an extra that is the star because she got something wrong. Now that is not just about getting some guys to strip off; that is an alternative cinema.

run it off (run it off), Sunday, 22 February 2004 11:40 (sixteen years ago) link

i've seen two warhol films -- chelsea girls, which i really liked (in its "you want REALISM? i'll give you REALISM!! watch this guy eat an orange! watch this guy who looks like beck TAKE OFF ALL HIS CLOTHES WHILE STONED OUTTA HIS mind!!" way). and the velvet underground thing. i enjoyed them.

i wanna see empire.

Eisbär (llamasfur), Sunday, 22 February 2004 20:37 (sixteen years ago) link

you should read kostenbaums penguin lives on warhol, its like 3/4s about the films, in this really odd, twisty, theory heavy, almost opiated way

anthony, Sunday, 22 February 2004 20:42 (sixteen years ago) link

Empire works best if you treat it as a glorified still, flickering away at you. Best seen in a gallery next to his paintings.

anode (anode), Sunday, 22 February 2004 23:31 (sixteen years ago) link

is chelsea girls available on video? (or does that defeat the purpose?)

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Monday, 23 February 2004 01:27 (sixteen years ago) link

I've only seen "Eat." I enjoyed it immensely. It was very affecting, textural and strangely erotic. It felt like much more than the gimmicky stunt I was expecting. I want to see more.

theodore fogelsanger, Monday, 23 February 2004 05:51 (sixteen years ago) link

is chelsea girls available on video? (or does that defeat the purpose?)

not if you have 3 dvds/vcrs that can play simultaneously, it doesn't.

Eisbär (llamasfur), Monday, 23 February 2004 05:53 (sixteen years ago) link

actually no a dvd is coming out

anthony that'd mean i'd have to see his paintings too!

amateur!st (amateurist), Monday, 23 February 2004 10:24 (sixteen years ago) link

one year passes...
oh, i was being a bit of a tit here. i just ordered 'chelsea girls'. i think i might hate it, but you have to try these things. i still think that the notion that "boredom is really underestimated in our attention-seeking, fun-complusive economy of culture" is silly, though. but i'm enjoying minimal music more now so maybe will enjoy warhol more. 'course, tony conrad did minimal films and minimal music at the same time.

N_RQ, Friday, 13 May 2005 14:20 (fifteen years ago) link

Is "My Hustler" a Morrissey film? It's good.

Dadaismus (Dada), Friday, 13 May 2005 15:00 (fifteen years ago) link

I would stay away from Chelsea Girls on the Anonymous Film Archive label (bootleg). I asked a guy in the store to play some of it to check out the formating and it seems they shot a 2-screen projection at a normal aspect ratio, thereby cutting off the outer half of each screen. A quick google shows a PAL release that looks official, and I assume that's the one you got N_RQ. Let us know how it looks.

nickn (nickn), Friday, 13 May 2005 22:47 (fifteen years ago) link

i got it on an italian label 'raro', from that sight and sound says was okay and looks purty legit. i want 'sleep'.

N_RQ, Monday, 16 May 2005 08:19 (fifteen years ago) link

I saw Trash in the late 70s and found it alternately dull and grimly fascinating. Ultimately I was moved by it somehow, and remember getting mad at my fellow moviegoers when they laughed at a climatic discussion of garbage picking than I thought was tragically profound. Hey, I was in college at the time and a bit self-serious.

m coleman (lovebug starski), Monday, 16 May 2005 09:14 (fifteen years ago) link

*Empire works best if you treat it as a glorified still, flickering away at you. Best seen in a gallery next to his paintings.*

Right with you there, I sat and watched a 45 minute cutdown at a Warhol exhibition once and it worked splendidly as an installation/ambient artwork type thing. When the lights came on it was fantastic! Pity there was no sound, really would have liked to heard the supposed arguing that went on.

mzui (mzui), Monday, 16 May 2005 10:13 (fifteen years ago) link

Empire was shown as a special night screening in an Andy Warhol retrospective here in Helsinki some years ago, and there were rumours that someone had actually sat through the whole film! Kinda hard to believe, but maybe he needed a place to sleep.

Tuomas (Tuomas), Monday, 16 May 2005 11:13 (fifteen years ago) link

two years pass...

anything in partic you all like to recommend? I'll probably pick a cpl of things..

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 26 July 2007 18:12 (thirteen years ago) link

Tarzan and Jane Regained, Screen Tests.

I hear Blowjob is good.

admrl, Thursday, 26 July 2007 19:09 (thirteen years ago) link

^^^Screen tests, Beauty # 2, Vinyl.

I'm not a giant fan of his films, but I really disagree w/amst's criticisms above; to me, the boredom-as-suspense, experiential componant of the films is far more valuable than the Big Ideas they (may) embody.

C0L1N B..., Thursday, 26 July 2007 19:14 (thirteen years ago) link

bfi thing:

supported by:

that's really too perfect

sanskrit, Thursday, 26 July 2007 20:10 (thirteen years ago) link

It really is! I didn't think it would be too long before someone pointed that out.

I don't know as to some of the criticisms of this thread - I have a clear impression of what these films might be like just from listening to music, say. I'm def not bored by a lot of it - if I ws I would've stopped all that long ago, but my interests in that stuff still run strongly enough.

I think its a problem that most likely I'd love this stuff, and maybe its time to start doubting and distrusting all that more...but that is all for another time. For now I just wanna watch.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 26 July 2007 21:26 (thirteen years ago) link

if i weren't semi-sometimes-employed by the bfi i wd have written something about the insanity of the nft/bfi doing this ridiculous season.

in the era when every arts administrator calls themself a "curator" people have totally forgotten how to curate. a comprehensive warhol season showing every bit of celluloid he ever exposed is a monstrous waste, and they will surely make a huge loss.

you just do not need to have this many films shown, especially when the ny avant-gardes warhol was stealing from remain relatively unseen. do not expect the nft to publicize any of the relevant arguments w. the fluxus guys etc. do expect more tedium about 'celebrity culture'.

That one guy that hit it and quit it, Thursday, 26 July 2007 21:35 (thirteen years ago) link

I agree with you but aren't most NFT seasons along these lines? More about a filmmaker's back catalogue than any wider context? I would sort of be shocked if they did it any other way (and I like the NFT and the BFI, even if they never live up to the idea of what they COULD be, or WERE).

admrl, Thursday, 26 July 2007 21:40 (thirteen years ago) link

It doesn't look like they're actually showing that many films of his films (or am I missing something in the program?) -- no Chelsea Girls or Blue Movie, for example.

C0L1N B..., Thursday, 26 July 2007 21:41 (thirteen years ago) link

it's a two-part seaz! continues september. they are showing loooaaaads anyway.

adam: yes. well: kind of. i mean, the *national* film theatre (it's called bfi southbank now, which is lame: originally the nft was financially independent of the bfi and this attempt to brand it is pretty stupid) did a season of michael powell two years ago which showed perhaps half his films.

in general i think they have cut back a little from these two-month blockbuster seasons, but i do think they're the worst idea ever, but *especially* for warhol. they're showing about four programmes of his 'screen tests' shown back to back. some of these *might* be interesting (bob dylan) but, y'know, a little editorial control after forty years...

That one guy that hit it and quit it, Thursday, 26 July 2007 22:15 (thirteen years ago) link

that's right. I forgot about "bfi southbank". I'm glad they have a shop again!

admrl, Thursday, 26 July 2007 22:28 (thirteen years ago) link

i haven't been. i think the last time i went was like two years ago. and i was living in london till march...

That one guy that hit it and quit it, Thursday, 26 July 2007 22:31 (thirteen years ago) link

Yes it might have been nicer if they were to do a kind of minimalist cinema, if that's what you mean.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 26 July 2007 22:37 (thirteen years ago) link

minimalist cinema season, or whatever..

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 26 July 2007 22:38 (thirteen years ago) link

They had something like that at the Tate earlier this year, I think?

admrl, Thursday, 26 July 2007 22:39 (thirteen years ago) link

well, that's another can of worms really, cinema in a gallery bidness. i don't really mean minimalist cinema, no, because it's boring i think that's what this stuff got categorized as during the 70s when it went legitimate... i'm for robert frank, ron rice, jim mcbride.

That one guy that hit it and quit it, Thursday, 26 July 2007 22:43 (thirteen years ago) link

one month passes...

I missed this whole season! Almost. I did see "The Velvet Underground & Nico", which is groovy. And "The Velvet Underground", which is shit.

Tom D., Thursday, 13 September 2007 16:18 (thirteen years ago) link

Tho the latter is almost worth it to see Lou Reed looking incredibly boyish and cute and doing some embarassingly weird frugging

Tom D., Thursday, 13 September 2007 16:20 (thirteen years ago) link

one month passes...

NYC series in Astoria, starting next weekend:

Dr Morbius, Monday, 15 October 2007 17:39 (thirteen years ago) link

i think i'll see chelsea girls

sleep, Monday, 15 October 2007 18:11 (thirteen years ago) link

Fuck, didn't they just do a Warhol series a few months ago?

C0L1N B..., Monday, 15 October 2007 18:15 (thirteen years ago) link

i liked the one about the building
i watched four hours and i thought "i want to pee on that"

a puppy, Monday, 15 October 2007 18:23 (thirteen years ago) link

Not that I remember, Colin.

Hoberman: For the next four weekends, the Museum of the Moving Image will be screening vintage Warhol in what may be the largest such event since Warhol's own Edie Sedgwick retrospective back in the day...,hoberman,78062,20.html

Dr Morbius, Tuesday, 16 October 2007 17:49 (thirteen years ago) link



That one guy that hit it and quit it, Tuesday, 16 October 2007 17:49 (thirteen years ago) link

oh, duh -- J.H. sez AMMI did Sedgwick last year

Dr Morbius, Tuesday, 16 October 2007 17:50 (thirteen years ago) link

wouldn't sleep go see Sleep?

Chelsea Girls was riveting the first time, and I went in with misgivings.

There's no baseball, at least during the day, this weekend so I might try to hit AMMI Sat or Sun.

Dr Morbius, Wednesday, 17 October 2007 17:28 (thirteen years ago) link

yea well they're only showing an excerpt! weeeak
i might have to go see the velvet underground + nico as well. we'll see.

sleep, Wednesday, 17 October 2007 17:48 (thirteen years ago) link

on my way to the 2 & 4, if trains work.

Dr Morbius, Saturday, 20 October 2007 16:15 (thirteen years ago) link

No mention of the Curiosity Killed the Cat "Misfit" video! No credibility!

JTS, Saturday, 20 October 2007 23:32 (thirteen years ago) link

About 30 ppl at Saturday's 2pm screening; maybe a dozen walkouts.

Unblinking Eye, Visual Diary: Warhol’s Films

“OUR movies may have looked like home movies,” Andy Warhol wrote, responding to one of his critics, “but then our home wasn’t like anybody else’s.” From 1963 through 1968 Warhol shot hundreds of these home movies, work that is short and dauntingly long, silent and sound, scripted and improvised, often in black and white though also in color, still as death and alive to its moment. Awkward, beautiful, raw, spellbinding, radical — they are films like few others, in part because, first and foremost, they are also sublime art.

Through Nov. 11 the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, is presenting a 33-title retrospective of his work, including new prints of films like his 1966 sensation “The Chelsea Girls”; a sampling of the 472 “Screen Tests” he shot of Susan Sontag, Lou Reed and other fabulous scene-makers; and excerpts from early minimalist epics like the eight-hour “Empire” (1964) and the 5-hour 21-minute “Sleep” (1963). The museum will also present “A Walk Into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory,” a documentary about a filmmaker who had been one of Warhol’s intimates, and “Beautiful Darling,” a work in progress about Candy Darling, a notable figure in what the museum is calling “Warhol’s World.” For film lovers there is no more important show in town.

In the years since his death in 1987 from a heart attack at 58 (or thereabouts), after undergoing gall bladder surgery, Warhol has continued to make money and headlines with his fine art even as his films have remained largely from view. In May a new record for his work was set at a New York auction when a 1963 painting of a car crash was sold to an anonymous buyer for $71.7 million. (You can buy your very own Warhol magnet for $4 at Meanwhile, in the 2006 fiction film “Factory Girl,” about Edie Sedgwick, his most famous superstar, Warhol’s already creepy mainstream profile reaches its nadir with a portrait of the artist as the embodiment of 1960s urban decadence, a gay vampire sucking the life out of an innocent led astray.

Warhol didn’t destroy Ms. Sedgwick, who died from barbiturate intoxication in 1971 after leaving New York and his circle; rather, in films like “Vinyl,” “Kitchen,” “Beauty #2,” “Poor Little Rich Girl” and “Outer and Inner Space” (all 1965 and all essential), he seems to grab hold of time and hold it still, capturing the moth moments before it fluttered too close to the flame. To be sure there’s a touch of the macabre to her appearance in his 1965 film “Lupe,” in which she plays out the last moments of the Hollywood actress Lupe Velez, who tried to stage a beautiful suicide and ended up wrapped around a toilet bowl, but only because Ms. Sedgwick herself provided the fatal postscript. The dread that Warhol’s sexuality inspired is nothing new. On the first page of his memoir “Popism: The Warhol Sixties,” written with Pat Hackett, he explains that Pop artists “did images that anybody walking down Broadway could recognize in a split second — comics, picnic tables, men’s trousers, celebrities, shower curtains, refrigerators, Coke bottles — all the great modern things that the Abstract Expressionists tried so hard not to notice at all.” About 10 pages later he adds one other item to the list of things that some Abstract Expressionists tried hard not to notice: homosexuality. “You’re too swish,” his friend, the filmmaker Emile de Antonio, bluntly dropped, when Warhol asked why Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg didn’t like him. “And that upsets them.”

Warhol’s success as a commercial artist, exemplified by his award-winning illustrations for the shoe company I. Miller that ran in this paper, didn’t help his reputation with serious or self-serious artists either. Though hurt by the disdain, Warhol decided he “wasn’t going to care, because those were all things that I didn’t want to change anyway, that I didn’t think I should want to change.” He added, “And as for the ‘swish’ thing, I’d always had a lot of fun with that — just watching the expressions on people’s faces. You’d have to have seen the way all the Abstract Expressionist painters carried themselves and the kinds of images they cultivated, to understand how shocked people were to see a painter coming on swish.”

That swish thing is critical to Warhol’s films, where beautiful butch boys in tight jeans and leather jackets share the screen with transvestites in elegant dime-store drag. Ms. Sedgwick may have been his most famous superstar (at least the one now most likely to adorn a book jacket), and plenty of women crossed in front of his camera. But it’s all the male bodies — adorned, adored and at times stripped bare — that underscore the radical politics of Warhol’s gaze. In films like “Couch” (1964), which features some salacious banana eating (including by the film critic Amy Taubin), as well as images of men having sex in front of casual and diffident observers, Warhol presents gay desire as something perfectly ordinary, which in and of itself was extraordinary.

With his films Warhol broke with the received ideas of what was possible — specifically, what cinema is and can be — much as he had helped do with his Pop paintings. He wasn’t the first avant-garde filmmaker to represent gay desire, send up Hollywood, flatten cinematic space or call attention to the material properties of the medium, and his work shows the imprint of avant-garde notables like Marie Menken, Kenneth Anger and especially Jack Smith, who also appears in several Warhol titles, including “Camp” (1965), which seems to be a direct response to Susan Sontag’s landmark 1964 essay on the subject. We aren’t “camping,” one woman says in the film, putting a stranglehold on the camera with her crazy eyes. “This is who we are.”

Yet in Warhol’s films the illusions of Hollywood, with its seamless narratives and industrial imperatives, are self-consciously replaced by other illusions, notably those pertaining to identity. The performers in his films play a shifting catalog of roles — biker boy, hustler, debutante, faded movie queen, aged grand artiste — that are simultaneously constructed and poignantly real. This is who we are, each seems to say, whether aggressively staring into (or perhaps, more accurately, staring down) the camera or pretending to ignore it altogether. Though Warhol rarely appears on camera, the films feel profoundly autobiographical; they’re individualistic records of the world in which he played, made art and helped construct his own slippery, elusive identity. They are part ethnography, part memento mori and wholly personal.

Warhol withdrew his 1960s films from circulation around 1970, two years after he was almost shot to death by Valerie Solanas, a freaked-out feminist who makes a startling appearance in a stairwell in his 1967 film “I, a Man.” (She harasses the film’s title character, a hustling Adonis whose supposed “squishy” rear end she derides.) While Warhol was in the hospital recuperating, Paul Morrissey, the name most associated with Warhol’s cinematic output, directed the feature-length narrative “Flesh.” After recovering from his wounds, at least physically, Warhol made only one other film himself, “Blue Movie” (in which a man and woman have coitus uninterruptus), in the fall of 1968. Mr. Morrissey directed other films, including “Andy Warhol’s Dracula” and “Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein,” which Warhol helped produce.

The Morrissey titles may ring bells (some are on DVD) but have nothing to do with the aesthetic concerns and formal brilliance of Warhol’s own films. At once playfully ecstatic objects and cultural time pieces, avant-garde classics and foundation texts for queer cinema, the nearly two dozen Warhol films I’ve seen (out of some 160 nonscreen-test titles) enliven and excite. They also underscore just how calcified much of cinema is, including work made under the generally meaningless rubric of independence. To watch most commercially produced movies is to watch the same endlessly recycled three acts and cautiously modified visual tics again and again. The names change from product to product, country to country, but little else. To watch a Warhol film is to rediscover cinema’s plasticity, boundlessness, mystery and possibility.

In 1966 Warhol began screening his films as part of multimedia extravaganzas initially called the Erupting Plastic Inevitable that he, the Velvet Underground and other Factory members mounted at the Dom, a Polish dance hall turned discotheque on St. Marks Place. (Erupting later grew into Exploding.) Warhol and others projected films like “Empire” and “Vinyl,” slipping colored gels over the images, while the Velvets bombarded eardrums, strobe lights pulsed and the demimonde danced with the uptown gawkers. To publicize the event Warhol and company took out a newspaper ad for the opening that seductively beckoned with the words “Come Blow Your Mind.” Rarely has there been so much truth in advertising.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Dr Morbius, Monday, 22 October 2007 13:59 (thirteen years ago) link

It occurred to me a while ago that the place to see Warhol's films is not in a cinema but in an art gallery, as part of some kind of video-style installation work. I was able to test this in the Niland Gallery in Sligo on Saturday, where they have an Andy Warhol exhibition on. The screen tests and the Velvet Underground film were great to sit and watch for a bit before wandering off to play with the silver balloons.

My beloved and I are still trying to work out whether the unquiet Americans were part of the exhibition or not.

The Real Dirty Vicar, Monday, 22 October 2007 19:20 (thirteen years ago) link

warhol's films have probably been more seen in art galleries than in cinemas, on the whole. 'chelsea girls' got a big release in '66, but since then...

that's kind of fair because cinemas should be used for proper films rather than the fucking "screen tests" of a bunch of self-important narcissists who, a couple of reluctant exceptions excepted, left nothing of value except... their connection to andy warhol's factory scene.


That one guy that hit it and quit it, Monday, 22 October 2007 19:27 (thirteen years ago) link

i watch bootleg DVDs of "chelsea girls" and the screen tests all the time while I'm working on sound. It's like a visual way of putting the radio on; to put it awkwardly but accurately, they are never not beautiful. "Chelsea Girls" can be quite brutally depressing, and that deliberate "bringdown" factor is rarely discussed when people talk about Warhol; they tend to focus on glamour and starpower and iconography, but when you really listen to Ondine and Eric talking in their long rants in "Chelsea Girls" it is super uncomfortable. The screen tests are a different thing entirely; they are like stained glass windows of saints or something.

Drew Daniel, Monday, 22 October 2007 19:35 (thirteen years ago) link

The jabbering of the 3 guys on the soundtrack to Harlot, which gets a little tedious once Mario Montez pulls out his fourth banana, sort of sounds like a minimalist forerunner to Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Dr Morbius, Monday, 22 October 2007 19:46 (thirteen years ago) link

so they showed a 46-min excerpt of Empire (the 8-hour fixed shot of the Empire State Building) on Saturday, and as I anticipated, the audience interaction was the drama. A group of 4 or 5 came in late, fairly noisily -- I heard plastic bracelets clattering throughout -- and there was giggling and whispered WTFs after 10 minutes.

MAN #1: Will you be quiet?

#2: No.

#3: Yes, do.

#4: For you youngsters, you were supposed to talk during this movie, and have a cigarette.

The noisy party left after another 10 minutes, with a woman huffing "Eight hours of that!"

Dr Morbius, Monday, 29 October 2007 19:15 (thirteen years ago) link

This is a handy "star" guide:

Dr Morbius, Wednesday, 31 October 2007 16:11 (thirteen years ago) link

"The noisy party left after another 10 minutes, with a woman huffing "Eight hours of that!"

-- Dr Morbius, Monday, October 29, 2007 7:15 PM (2 days ago) Bookmark Link"

what a SQUARE huh.

am kind of amazed that the audience was WTFing this. it'd be like going to 'hear' 3'33 and then going -- OMG WHERE THE TUNE!?!?!?!

That one guy that hit it and quit it, Wednesday, 31 October 2007 16:13 (thirteen years ago) link

Yeah, walking out not as puzzling as WALKING IN!

Dr Morbius, Wednesday, 31 October 2007 16:16 (thirteen years ago) link

The Chelsea Girls: still fastest 3-1/2 hrs in cinema

Dr Morbius, Monday, 5 November 2007 17:45 (thirteen years ago) link

I lost interest about half way through.

Virginia Plain, Tuesday, 6 November 2007 14:40 (thirteen years ago) link

one year passes...

“A Walk Into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory,” a documentary about a filmmaker who had been one of Warhol’s intimates,

I watched this tonight. I really liked the excerpts of Danny's films!

Congeniaal HOe is de Collective Animal (PappaWheelie V), Saturday, 10 January 2009 06:37 (eleven years ago) link

one year passes...

Very sad news from the Warhol as filmmaker front. Callie Angell, curator of The Andy Warhol Film Project, has died.

Quite eerie for me because just yesterday I was reading about her in Roy Grundmann's amazing book on Blow Job.

Kevin John Bozelka, Tuesday, 11 May 2010 16:09 (ten years ago) link

just saw her speak at the 0rph4ns symposium a month ago! by all accounts this was very sudden. RIP.

joe scarborough and peoples (donna rouge), Tuesday, 11 May 2010 16:14 (ten years ago) link

lol @ $74.50 for a 280-page analysis of a 35-minute film of a guy making sex faces

Ralph Nadir (crüt), Tuesday, 11 May 2010 16:27 (ten years ago) link

am nailing it in first post basically

Greatest contributor: (history mayne), Tuesday, 11 May 2010 16:29 (ten years ago) link


Oddly enough, that's not the only book on the film. There's a much cheaper one by the great, albeit a bit hardline, avant-garde filmmaker/polemicist Peter Gidal.

Also, the anthology Pop Out: Queer Warhol has an absolutely superb essay by Jonathan Flatley called “Warhol Gives Good Face: Publicity and the Politics of Prosopopoeia.” Don't let "Prosopopoeia" scare you off (or let your mind drift towards Mexican desserts) - it's an easy to digest essay explaining some of Warhol's preoccupations, with a good chunk on Blow Job.

Kevin John Bozelka, Tuesday, 11 May 2010 17:05 (ten years ago) link

one year passes...

Ron Rice ws discussed up there hence the link - this is...Parajanov before Parajanov? Just w/a bunch of bohemian NY-ers -- except not nearly as well made, but the overload of images with the music has a trance to it.

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 27 October 2011 19:11 (nine years ago) link

if chelsea girls is one of warhol's best movies, i'd hate to see his worst

The sham nation of Israel should be destroyed. (Princess TamTam), Sunday, 6 November 2011 08:32 (nine years ago) link

Saw this old documentary on Warhol's films:

Lots of great clips -- got v excited about seeing Chelsea Girls. Hoberman alluded to rolling news and you could easily add reality TV to this now.

Anyway it looked boring and great too. A must see.

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 6 November 2011 11:37 (nine years ago) link

I love seeing docs about Warhol because of interviews w/old factory members. They seem like aliens from a far away galaxy.

Best left at a distance i think.

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 6 November 2011 11:38 (nine years ago) link

three months pass...

i saw a 2-screen projection of chelsea girls a few months ago, it was cool

am0n, Thursday, 9 February 2012 21:08 (eight years ago) link

I saw some of the National Gallery's Warhol retrospective this past fall. If you ask me the Warhol estate is doing the world a favor by limiting these films' distribution. (Only Ondine made Chelsea Girls tolerable.)

Seraphim? I don't even know him! (, Thursday, 9 February 2012 22:57 (eight years ago) link

two years pass...

I'm leading a panel w/Tom Kalin and Claire K. Henry of the Whitney Museum on Nov. 20 discussing Lupe, Hedy, and Harlot. Anyone seen'em?

guess that bundt gettin eaten (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 15 November 2014 16:54 (six years ago) link

rather, point me to a couple of good articles I can cite

guess that bundt gettin eaten (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 15 November 2014 16:58 (six years ago) link

Stephen Koch's Stargazer is still the locus classicus on Warhol's films

Iago Galdston, Saturday, 15 November 2014 22:50 (six years ago) link

one year passes...

Saw Kitchen last week, Poor Little Rich Girl tonight, five or six more in the coming weeks. Still mulling over Kitchen. "I suspect that a hundred years from now people will look at Kitchen and say, 'Yes, that is the way it was in the late Fifties, early Sixties in America. That's why they had the war in Vietnam. That's why the rivers were getting polluted. That's why there was typological glut. That's why the horror came down. That's why the plague was on its way.' Kitchen shows that better than any other work of that time." Norman Mailer in Edie...Wish I could get him to expand on that. (He does, a bit--the full quote is longer.) I sort of get it--there's a real feeling of violence in a couple of Edie Sedgwick's outbursts--but for me the experience of actually watching it didn't match the intrigue of that quote. Occasional lines made me laugh, and I will remember Sedgwick's getup (I liked how, when Warhol wanders into the film, you realize why two or three of them are wearing striped shirts). I think I drifted off for about 10 minutes.

clemenza, Saturday, 28 November 2015 16:46 (five years ago) link

I enjoyed Tarzan and Jane Regained...Sort Of for short stretches. Kitchen and Poor Little Rich Girl are so heavily invested in Edie Sedgwick, I think you've got to find her as endlessly fascinating as Warhol does to get much out of them. She mostly just wore me down. Taylor Mead, who came from the stage, is simply better in front of the camera--his vamping and clowning around is very funny at times. (The whole film seems to be predicated on the question "How do you make a Tarzan film?" "If your lead actor wears a loincloth and remembers to beat his chest every minute or two, it's a Tarzan film.") Throw in some deadpan voice-over ("This is the bathtub's endless"), the Orlons and Little Eva and lots of other girl-group stuff (felt much more like a Kenneth Anger film than the other two, even though Poor Little Rich Girl also has a pop-heavy soundtrack), Dennis Hopper and Irving Blum (recognized him from the Ric Burns documentary; also Claes Oldenburg and the director James Bridges), and some nudity, and it’s halfway lively. It walks up to the edge of a couple of really dark corners--bestiality (for laughs) and pedophilia--but glancingly. Eighty minutes; 40 would have been enough. Dionne Warwick overtop color footage of Naomi Levine swimming was the highlight for me. Beautiful, sort of.

clemenza, Saturday, 5 December 2015 22:43 (four years ago) link

four weeks pass...

Lonesome Cowboys is the usual mixture of tedium and funny, sometimes deadpan (and sometimes not) camp, the best of it from Taylor Mead, who I'm pretty sure is stoned throughout. Loved "Magical Mystery Tour."

clemenza, Saturday, 2 January 2016 02:09 (four years ago) link

I must have slept through a quarter of Nude Restaurant's 100 minutes, including much of the beginning and end (which included some of the Taylor Mead/Julian Burroughs scene, which seems to be the film's most famous). I had been contemplating skipping it altogether earlier--knew I was tired, and reading up a little beforehand I thought "Do I really want to see this?"

Anyway, actually enjoyed a lot of the rest. I'm now convinced that Mead is a borderline comic genius. He's even funny when he's not saying anything (e.g., the whole time he's listening to Viva), and he's great at mocking the very existence of these films, like when he finishes his song and says "And now I'd like to order something from the menu," extra-large quotation marks around "menu." I also found Viva much more entertaining that Sedgwick in the two films I posted about earlier. Loved the monologue about her psychiatrist, and her derision of mass media is better than Dylan and the Time reporter: "We're beginning to sound like Newsweek. 'Hippiedom. Trouble in Hippiedom.'" I hope that somewhere, sometime, somebody named their band Trouble in Hippiedom.

clemenza, Sunday, 3 January 2016 02:21 (four years ago) link

Pretty detailed piece here:

clemenza, Sunday, 3 January 2016 02:26 (four years ago) link

For 40 years, the only films I'd seen Viva in were Midnight Cowboy and Cisco Pike. I've seen her in three Warhols now--saw Bike Boy tonight--and I think she's fantastic. And again, she and Ingrid Superstar and Brigid Polk seem so much more interesting and funny to me than Sedgwick.

(IMDB lists Valerie Solanas as "Woman on street" in Bike Boy. I either missed her--I don't even remember seeing the street--or, my guess, she was excised from the film.)

clemenza, Friday, 8 January 2016 05:12 (four years ago) link

I don't think that worked, anyway, don't forget her appearance in "Play It Again, Sam"! And on "Escalator Over the Hill".

Anyway, it's not a three, it's a yogh. (Tom D.), Friday, 8 January 2016 10:52 (four years ago) link

Forgot about that...Haven't seen it in a while, so I can't quite remember her in it--I always think of Susan Anspach and the art-gallery woman in Play It Again. I've never heard "Escalator Over the Hill"--interesting.

clemenza, Friday, 8 January 2016 12:25 (four years ago) link

two weeks pass...

I really enjoyed a lot of this series--all the stuff that made me think about stuff--but Mrs. Warhol was not a good way to end. An hour of Warhol's mother puttering around the kitchen while Richard Rheem, about 50 years her junior, kind of half humors her and half affectionately mocks her. I think it's supposed to be charming; I was bored out of my mind.

clemenza, Sunday, 24 January 2016 23:19 (four years ago) link

one month passes...

Nude Restaurant screens in Brooklyn tomw night

we can be heroes just for about 3.6 seconds (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 17 March 2016 14:59 (four years ago) link

eight months pass...

Saw newly restored Drunk aka Drink last night. Emile de Antonio, bolting J&B, is a riot in the first reel, just sad in the second. Catch it when you can.

Supercreditor (Dr Morbius), Sunday, 20 November 2016 14:04 (four years ago) link

two years pass...

a lot of NYC cinephiles are excited about tomorrow's screening of Empire at the Whitney

but, y'know

a Mets fan who gave up on everything in the mid '80s (Dr Morbius), Friday, 11 January 2019 12:29 (one year ago) link

one year passes...

"Kiss" by Andy Warhol (1963–64) is now streaming through @MoMAFilm in a newly restored edition. Could be the first time a Warhol 16mm classic has legally appeared on the inner nets.

— Dave Kehr (@dave_kehr) August 13, 2020

brooklyn suicide cult (Dr Morbius), Sunday, 16 August 2020 17:57 (three months ago) link

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