Produced for British television on the 15th anniversary of Andy Warhol's death, this comprehensive, balanced and engaging documentary examines the pioneering pop artist's contributions to late-20th-century painting, film, music, publishing and, most pervasively, contemporary mass culture. The son of working class Slovakian immigrants, Warhol began his career as a commercial artist and began painting in the late 1950s. In 1960, his first solo show of soup can paintings generated heated debate in both the popular and art-world press; Warhol's flat, appropriated commercial images were the antithesis of muscular abstract expressionism, and his affectless, icily cool persona (crafted in part to conceal his shyness) was a passive-aggressive slap in the face to the cult of the artist-as-volcanic-personality embodied by Jackson Pollock. Throughout the '60s Warhol expanded on his notion of the artist as machine, dubbing his studios "factories" (there were three in all), silk-screening obsessively repeated images of movie stars, flowers and historical figures onto canvas and flaunting his use of assistants and mechanical reproduction. He branched out into filmmaking, rejecting conventional or symbolic narrative and instead filming his eccentric entourage in every day activities everyday, at least, for speed freaks and extroverts; THE CHELSEA GIRLS (1966) remains a seminal work of underground filmmaking. Warhol later recruited Paul Morrissey to direct movies under the Warhol brand; Morrissey also brought together Warhol and influential art-rock band The Velvet Underground. After unbalanced factory hanger-on Valerie Solanis shot and nearly killed Warhol in 1968, he shunned his old associates, hired a new, more business-oriented support staff and focussed on lucrative commissioned portraits of socialites and celebrities and Interview magazine. Warhol published a 1975 "autobiography," The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again (actually written by members of his entourage), and died unexpectedly after routine gall bladder surgery in 1987, aged 65. Director Chris Rodley combines archival footage and dozens of interviews into an informative portrait of the much-examined Warhol, even digging up a couple of fresh tidbits: The soup can paintings were primarily about the appropriation of soulless commercial imagery, but interviews reveal a personal connection. Warhol's beloved mother served Campbell's soup daily, and he continued to eat it for lunch at the height of his wealth and fame. And though the commissioned portraits were widely disparaged as crass commercial product, Warhol insisted on making them a standard size — regardless of the client's wishes — because he nursed a secret hope that one day they'd be exhibited en masse under the group title "Portrait of Society."
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- Released: 2002
- Rating: NR
- Review: Produced for British television on the 15th anniversary of Andy Warhol's death, this comprehensive, balanced and engaging documentary examines the pioneering pop artist's contributions to late-20th-century painting, film, music, publishing and, most pervas… (more)