Changing Perceptions of Time, Fame, and Film in Warhol’s Oeuvre


Sex, time, stardom, spectatorship: All are reconfigured in the films of Andy Warhol. From 1963 to 1968, he made hundreds of movies, ranging from the three-minute Screen Tests to the 25-hour **** (Four Stars). In his astounding oeuvre, Warhol slowed the passage of time; fervently recorded men’s bodies; captured legendary performances from disaffected heiresses, logorrheic speed freaks, and beautiful boys and girls. He changed ways of seeing, inviting his viewers to register the slightest movement of the human face as a cataclysmic event, as in Blow Job (1963), or frustrating them, as he does in his dual-screen masterpiece The Chelsea Girls (1966), with simply too much to view. BAMcinématek’s ample retro juxtaposes 15 Warhol works, including the rarities Mrs. Warhol, Ari and Mario, and Since (all from 1966), with docs, shorts, and features about the artist and his superstars.

Some of the finest offerings in the series are Warhol’s black-and-white investigations of sex. Erotic acts become the source of ethnographic fascination in Kiss (1963), in which the gender of the kissers is occasionally indeterminate. Pleasure and pain are indistinguishable in the sublime Blow Job, which records the facial reactions of an anonymous man receiving offscreen fellatio. In Vinyl (1965), s/m and poppers inhabit the screen with the wordless yet scene-stealing debut of Edie Sedgwick.

Warhol as subject is best captured in “Visions of Warhol,” a collection of shorts that includes Marie Menken’s kaleidoscopic Andy Warhol (1965). Another remarkable profile is that of Brigid Berlin, perhaps the most brilliant—and terrifying—member of Warhol’s coterie, in Vincent Fremont and Shelly Dunn Fremont’s doc Pie in the Sky (2000). A relatively sedate sexagenarian, she still displays the same ferocious wit that made her appearance in Chelsea Girls indelible.