American life has revolved around films since since they were invented. What they show you is what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and how to appear like you feel about it.” —Andy Warhol
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Andy Warhol, the American pop artist, was a household figure in the art world of the twentieth century. In the 1960s, he was a leading pop icon who had a profound impact on advertising and celebrity culture. When it comes to art, Andy Warhol is most known as the creator of the Pop Art movement. More than 500 short films by Andy Warhol were made between 1964 and 1966.
Andrew Warhola was educated at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, where he was born and raised in Pennsylvania. In the late 1940s, he was hired to illustrate shoes for Glamour magazine, where he got his start producing ads for women’s shoes.
Aside from his pop-art depictions of everyday objects like Campbell’s Soup cans and Marilyn Monroe silk screens, Andy Warhol turned to experimental filmmaking when he gained notoriety for his pop-art works in the 1960s.
To mark Andy Warhol’s 92nd birthday, we’re going to take a look at some of the most contentious and strange movies he made, films that revolutionized the way we think about cinema.
Top 10 Andy Warhol Films:
10. Lonesome Cowboys (1968)
Filmmaker Paul Morrissey partnered with Andy Warhol on this film, which depicted five rebellious gay cowboys in a tiny western town and their misadventures. By deconstructing the conventional Western mythology, Warhol injects his own political and artistic perspective into the work.
To put it another way, the film is casual and carefree, with no concern for conventional storytelling or cinematic conventions. Filmmaker John Waters would go on to further develop Warhol’s avant-garde artistic ideas after seeing Warhol’s groundbreaking feature film.
9. Empire (1964)
One of Andy Warhol’s most ambitious films, this eight-hour-long piece is a static shot of New York’s Empire State Building, with little to no movement or changes in light, shot from the Rockefeller Foundation’s 41st-floor office at 51st Street and 6th Avenue, over the course of two days in July 1964.
To frustrate and suspend the audience in a condition of suspended animation may be the ultimate subversion. Empire considers this to be one of Warhol’s “anti-films,” films meant to subvert conventional notions of what constitutes a film.
8. Blow Job (1964)
This is an experimental perspective on sex, which manages to transform the profane into the profound and then deconstructs itself to expose nothing. DeVeren Bookwalter, the character named in the film’s title, is the subject of a fixed camera shot for the duration of its 36-minute runtime.
Ecstasy and ennui can be seen in his face at the same time, as can engagement and detachment. “Five Beautiful Boys” is a line that Warhol famously uttered, and it adds another layer to the short video. Blow Job disrupted the societally manufactured idea of sexuality by introducing Queer sensibility to that extremely narrow framework.
7. Vinyl (1965)
It came six years before Stanley Kubrick made his masterwork, A Clockwork Orange, from Anthony Burgess’ classic novel. As a result of a cooperation with playwright Ronald Tavel, Vinyl is a scripted film, as opposed to some of his other works. Even so, it’s still a work in progress that blurs the boundary between fictitious and actual violence.
Artistic vision and ideological exposition come together beautifully in the film’s apathetic study of torture’s contradiction. An interesting addition to the voluminous discussion surrounding A Clockwork Orange, no doubt.
6. Kiss (1963)
Short films shot on 16mm film in black and white depict couples kissing, including heteronormative and homosexual relationships. By declaring that same-sex couples were equal, it defied the audience’s preconceptions at the time.
As one of the most influential painters of all time, Andy Warhol’s political and artistic worldview is reflected in the creation of Kiss. Among the cast members were Naomi Levine, Gerard Malanga and Rufus Collins.
5. Poor Little Rich Girl (1965)
Warhol’s longtime collaborator Edie Sedgwick stars in this experimental portrait/documentary.
We observe her smoking, getting dressed, talking on the phone, making coffee, and exercising in bed. The initial half of the picture is intentionally out of focus, a technique employed by Warhol to deconstruct the camera’s gaze. Later on, Edie tries to dodge the camera and ignores any voices telling her what she should or shouldn’t be doing.
4. The Velvet Underground and Nico: A Symphony of Sound (1966)
Filmed in January 1966, Warhol documented a rehearsal for the famed band at his Factory. His paintings were put on the back burner for a while during this period, as Warhol branched out into other subjects. He was hired by The Velvet Underground as manager and producer. It’s a dissonant yet creative combination of Warhol’s self-reflexive filmmaking, the soothing melodies, and the cops.
Warhol became disillusioned with the art world as a result of his dissatisfaction. To quote him, “I despise objects and I hate going to museums and seeing photos of the globe because they look so significant and don’t really signify anything.”
3. Beauty #2 (1965)
His two-part “Beauty” saga is best remembered for Beauty #2. Edie Sedgwick, Gino Piserchio, and Chuck Wein feature in the 1965 film. By constantly interrupting the moment, Wein frustrates Sedgwick by asking her questions that are difficult for her. Beauty #2, like many of Warhol’s works, became avant-garde by hinting at the erotic but never actually entering it.
In the film Beauty #2, you hear the voice of a guy directing Edie Sedgwick, so there’s direction and mise-en-scene, and everything leads to a specific point in the film, which is a really serious moment,” filmmaker Pedro Costa said about Warhol’s experimental work. It’s in those moments that you can feel a mixture of emotions: fear, excitement, and exhilaration.
2. Outer and Inner Space (1965)
Edie Sedgwick watches a prerecorded clip of herself on a television display in Andy Warhol’s 16mm film Outer and Inner Space. Video and layering images were employed for the first time in order to further blur the line between signifier and signified.
Edie interviews herself on two separate reels, which are shown side-by-side on the screen. The film Outer and Inner Space is both a work of art and a thought experiment that gets us thinking about what cinema is all about. There is a limit to how long you can suspend disbelief.
“Someone moved his arm in front of the screen to change stations while we were taping and the effect was incredibly dimensional,” Warhol said in an interview about his favorite part of the film. We discovered that it is possible to record while someone is in front of a television set. Close-ups on the TV screen provide for fantastic effects when cutting between scenes.”
1. The Chelsea Girls (1966)
It’s one of Andy Warhol’s most well-known films, and it depicts a raucous night at the Chelsea Hotel, where a fake pope takes confession, a drunk mother insults her son and his mute girlfriend and four women brawl in a bedroom, among other things. For the four-hour movie, two different reels were projected side-by-side on a split-screen. Only one can hear the sound, which is another fascinating perspective on voyeurism. It featured a few of Andy Warhol’s well-known colleagues, such as Nico, Brigid Berlin, Ondine, and Mario Montez, among others.
Famous American filmmaker Gus Van Sant recalls, “Andy loved the line between what was artificial and what was true. In his work and in his films, Andy adored the divide.” Someone in the audience once inquired aloud, “Is this a genuine movie?” when we were watching The Chelsea Girls.
Some people used this as a way of distinguishing between a Hollywood film and a porn film or other experimental film.” Andy didn’t care what everyone else thought about the film; he just wanted to see it. In a way, it was more realistic than any actual film.