Look Who's Talking

Shot in digital-8 video and transferred to 35mm, The Cruiselooks like black-and-white newsprint photos in motion. Miller seems to have worked hard to make the image look clean and professional, which, given his subject, seems exactly the wrong choice. The Cruiseis being hailed as a harbinger of a future in which indie film will be liberated by low-cost technology. If this is where we're going, I want off the bus.

A portrait of Edie Sedgwick, Outer and Inner Spaceis Warhol's first double-screen film and also his first piece to use video. It's also the piece that makes the strongest link between his serial painted portraits (like the Jackies and the Marilyns) and his film portraits. Using a prototype home-video recorder lent to him by Norelco, Warhol shot two half-hour tapes of Sedgwick, who, in both of them, is shown in close-up, her profile filling the left side of the screen, conversing with someone outside of camera range. With her hair slicked back and her head tilted upwards, she looks a bit like the Jean Seberg Joan of Arc, and it's serious torture that is about to be inflicted on her. Warhol proceeded to shoot two 33-minute films in which Sedgwick is positioned in front of the monitor on which her own image is playing. When the film is projected double-screen, we see four talking heads of equal size; the effect is that Sedgwick is whispering in her own ear. Since Warhol was not very careful in his sound recording, it's a struggle to make out what any of the Edies are saying. You begin to feel as if you're at a seance, and the mediums raising Sedgwick from the dead are video and film. Next to the ghostly Edies on the monitor, the filmed Edies look animated and three-dimensional.

Lenny Bruce, circa 1957: speaking truth to power with cosmic comic timing
The Lenny Bruce Estate
Lenny Bruce, circa 1957: speaking truth to power with cosmic comic timing

Details

Lenny Bruce: Swear To Tell the Truth
Directed by Robert B. Weide
At Film Forum
Through November 3

The Cruise
Directed by Bennett Miller

An Artisan Entertainment release
Opens October 23

Outer and Inner Space
Directed by Andy Warhol
At the Whitney Museum
Through November 29

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As in Beauty #2, the other great Warhol film of Sedgwick, the dramatic tension is a result of Warhol attempting to shatter Sedgwick's fragile psyche (and her upper-class social veneer) by splintering her attention and using her wounded narcissism against her. Sedgwick has to listen to her own voice chattering on while she makes polite conversation with someone who's behind the camera. Once or twice, she breaks the rules and turns to confront herself on the video, but mostly she tries to be a good actress and do what her director tells her to do. The film has become an ingenious memento mori of them both.

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