Andy Warhol

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Matt
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#26 Post by Matt » Sat Sep 23, 2006 11:59 pm

David Ehrenstein wrote:It explains how Pop overtook abstract expressionism, which was very serious and straight, but then it proceeds to treat Andy as a Great Artist in a very square way. There's no sense of Andy's delight in getting away with it.
Yes, you're absolutely right. I had posted my comments above with about another hour of the film left to go. I might have tempered my enthusiasm had I realized the extraordinary amount of time they would spend on Valerie Solanis and the 5 minutes they would spend on Warhol's '70s and '80s work--hardly a mention of Interview and none of his collaborations with Basquiat, Clemente, and Haring; his extremely dark self-portraiture (though they show a couple); or his MTV show which introduced him to a whole new generation. The film seems to buy into the idea that Andy sold out after the shooting and that his art of that time really isn't worth discussing (despite Miss Koestenbaum's protestations to the contrary).

Ah well, the first 3 1/2 hours were good enough. I shouldn't expect so much from a mainstream documentary. It was nice to get reacquainted with Warhol's early commercial illustration work. I had forgotten how good it was.

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#27 Post by David Ehrenstein » Sun Sep 24, 2006 9:10 am

You're quite right. One of the things that comes through most strongly in the posthumously published Diaries is Andy's delight during the 80's that the art scene was "fun again." His collaborations with Basquiat are quite important in this regard, plus the fact that Haring, Clemente and the others of that era were part of his social and artistic circle. He was thus enjoying a prominence he never had before as the Totemic Elder for a new generation. The documentary never deals with that. There's a rather good Southbank Show that does, however. It's available on DVD.

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Galen Young
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#28 Post by Galen Young » Thu Sep 28, 2006 2:31 am

Fans of David Cronenberg commentary tracks as well as Warhol's art might want to check out this CD of from the Art Gallery of Ontario's showing of Supernova. As a guest curator Cronenberg added a selection of Andy's 1960's films to the show that originated at the Walker Art Center. He has an interesting perspective on that period of Warhol's work.

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zedz
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#29 Post by zedz » Mon Jan 08, 2007 10:31 pm

The following comments are based on viewing Raro Video's recent Andy Warhol Anthology, but I decided to use this thread for the discussion since this is more about the films than the discs and I was hoping to restart a discussion about the entirety of Warhol's filmmaking, not just the films in the box set. Prior to receiving the set I'd seen plenty of Morrissey's films, but the only authentic Wathol I'd seen was Bike Boy.

The box set includes eleven films on eight discs (4 singles, 2 doubles). They're all available individually as well, to the best of my knowledge (though the box set is a much better deal, and might still be available at an even bigger discount). All of the discs include extras in the form of interviews with academics, participants or hangers-on. Jonas Mekas' Scenes from the Life of Andy Warhol is an extra on the Chelsea Girls bonus disc (plus there's a lovely interview with Mekas conducted by Paul Morrissey). All Italian extras have English subtitles. Some of the features have the option of Italian dubs, if anyone is interested. Raro does some of the best booklets in the business, and four of the six come with hefty squarebound books of sixty or so pages, half Italian, half English, including detailed analyses of the films, interviews, reminiscences, contemporary reviews, photos, etc. The box itself has a four page brochure slipped in (the flimsiest documentation in the set).

The discs are:
Four Silent Movies (Kiss / Blow Job / Empire / Mario Banana)
Vinyl / The Velvet Underground and Nico
My Hustler / I, a Man (double-disc)
The Chelsea Girls (double-disc)
The Nude Restaurant
Lonesome Cowboys

Four Silent Movies

With the inclusion of a sampling of some of Warhol's earliest and most austere films, the box does give a decent overview of his filmmaking practice. These are hardcore experimental films for the serious scholar, and, for me, had more in common with Warhol's best-known graphic art than with the later films. With the exception of Kiss, which takes the form of variations on a theme, each of these films is a single set-up, long-held view of a more or less 'iconic' subject.

Empire goes so far into the iconic that it becomes abstract, and alarmingly quickly, at that. What's on the disc is obviously not the full eight-hour epic, but a sixty-minute extract. It's taken from the middle of the night, so the building is just a pattern of lights in a field of black. Although the composition is static, the image is far from it. Within the first minute of viewing, it's the filmic 'flaws' that become the foreground: print damage, miniscule reframings, solarization, flicker: the field of the screen is constantly active. The image becomes everything which our eye and brain normally filter out as 'non-image', so there's an affinity with Brakhage here. More purely Warholian is the film's concern with the inherent flaws of mechanical reproduction and the withering gaze at heroic subjects. An eight hour hard-on, indeed.

Blow-Job applies something of the same technique to a human subject, and, more to the point, an event, but the effect is quite different. Here, the long gaze is accumulated through a sequence of near-identical three-minute shots, complete with flares and flashes at the top and tail of each reel. These artifacts (and the same applies to Kiss) sometimes seem like an abstracted representation of the passion / emotion that is largely absent from the screen. For me, this is a film about performance, even about bad performance. It's a head-and-shoulders shot of a guy apparently enjoying the titular titillation - but without the title (which is reported and extra-filmic), how would we read his gurns and grimaces? And would we read the series of repetitive reels (the actor has a comically limited range and there seems to be no attempt at 'development') as linear (i.e. a gradual movement towards climax) or as multiple takes of the same 'performance'? The obsessive focus on the poor guy's performance, every nuance of which comes and goes innumerable times, ultimately renders him as expressive as the Empire State. Pointers to the future: the scanty mise-en-scene (his leather jacket, the brick wall) alludes to a narrative context, making this a (vestigial) fiction rather than a documentary.

Kiss is an impressive series of kisses (multi-gender, in various framings and conducted with various degrees of enthusiam), each one occupying a three-minute reel. Warhol's later film work would be preoccupied with social interaction (specifially within his coterie), so, of the films on this disc, this is the one that has the closest connection to the rest of the box set.

Both Kiss and Blow-Job are mastered at the wrong speed (25 fps instead of silent speed 16 fps). The accompanying booklet indicates that this is how the films were supplied by the Warhol Foundation and also gripes about their cropping. I'm sure this makes a crucial difference to the viewing experience, as the slower speed (which should also place us at the horizon of perceptible flicker) would act as a further distanciation technique (silence is already operating as a powerful one) and render the actions in both films much less naturalistic.

Mario Banana - A sweet camp prank in two versions, colour and black and white, both a single three minute reel of Mario salaciously devouring a banana. The washed-out black and white has an eerie Sternbergian glamour that I particularly like.

Vinyl / VU

Vinyl - A feature-length adaptation of A Clockwork Orange covered from a single camera set-up in three or four shots. The camera is viewing the proceedings from a slightly elevated position, and I find the master composition rock-solid and compelling. The screen is crammed with detail (there are about half a dozen actors on screen much of the time, generally in their own worlds), so when the main action slackens (which it does, often - the conventional narrative stuff is radically unsatisfying in conventional narrative terms) you find yourself drawn to the goings-on in a different corner of the screen. Down-market Bosch? Gerard Malanga as Victor (ne Alex) delivers a dramatic performance of staggering awfulness (and that is definitely part of the point), but looks pretty cool go-go dancing to Martha and the Vandellas ("you sure don't look like Martha and the Vandellas", to quote the VU). Actually, this film probably offers the best evidence I've ever seen of the rock-solid brilliance of a Motown mono mix: even with the rudimentary sound recording of this film, Nowhere to Run sounds like a million bucks. In the lower right, a completely irrelevant Edie Sedgwick steals the show. I should leave the last word to Victor: "Where did they make such a flicker? I did not know such films existed!"

The Velvet Underground and Nico - Again, this is for the most part a single camera set-up, but in front of the camera is the VU in action, for about an hour (an exploratory, Melody Laughter-style improvisation). This is thus an essential document, but what's visually interesting about it is that, again, Warhol has composed a beautiful master shot with art historical significance (we glimpse it briefly near the beginning: it's Nico in the centre with her son Ari at her feet, the VU circled around her - yep, it's a profane nativity), but this time he radically fragments the composition through manic tilts, pans, zooms, loss of focus - basically any kind of movement / change that can be accomplished from a fixed camera position. I don't think we ever see the master composition again. Instead, we explore it at an atomic level, blowing it up into dozens of specific close-ups (not all of telling details), smearing it, shaking it, smothering it in darkness, blasting it with bleaching light. Eventually, the police arrive to break the scene up.

to be continued
Last edited by zedz on Tue Jun 24, 2008 5:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Matt
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#30 Post by Matt » Tue Jan 09, 2007 12:45 pm

zedz wrote:Both Kiss and Blow-Job are mastered at the wrong speed (25 fps instead of silent speed 16 fps). The accompanying booklet indicates that this is how the films were supplied by the Warhol Foundation and also gripes about their cropping. I'm sure this makes a crucial difference to the viewing experience, as the slower speed (which should also place us at the horizon of perceptible flicker) would act as a further distanciation technique (silence is already operating as a powerful one) and render the actions in both films much less naturalistic.
You wouldn't believe the difference the proper projection speed makes. The films are completely different--dreamlike, erotic, hypnotic. At sound speed, they often just look like someone's home movies. The Warhol Foundation should have those films taken away from them if those transfers are any indication of their respect for the films.

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zedz
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#31 Post by zedz » Tue Jan 09, 2007 4:10 pm

Matt wrote:The Warhol Foundation should have those films taken away from them if those transfers are any indication of their respect for the films.
I agree. If the Foundation considers the films 'fine art', as suggested higher up in this thread, it seems like they only do so in terms of restricting access. The evidence suggests they have no real idea what Warhol's filmmaking was about.

Still, that situation makes me even more pathetically grateful that Raro has managed to get at least some of the films in circulation.

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vertovfan
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#32 Post by vertovfan » Tue Jan 09, 2007 5:40 pm

I recall reading somewhere that the Warhol Museum actually owns the rights to his films, and regards the Raro releases as illegal bootlegs.

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#33 Post by David Ehrenstein » Tue Jan 09, 2007 6:39 pm

Quite true. They are illegal bootlegs.

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zedz
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#34 Post by zedz » Tue Jan 09, 2007 9:45 pm

Can anybody shed light on the difference between the Warhol Museum and the Warhol Foundation (who supplied the material for the Raro discs and support them with interviews etc.)?

Pressing on with comments on the discs:

My Hustler / I, a Man

This is the Warhol I like the best, lurking in the no man's land between script and improvisation, observed behaviour and directed action, formalism and naturalism, home movie and commercial cinema.

My Hustler

A truly great film that succeeds on so many levels. As a self-reflexive experimental piece it sets up a charged dialogue between on-screen and off-screen space (at times we're listening to one scene while watching another), and the second half of the film employs brilliant 'found' mise-en scene in an expertly composed mirrored bathroom scene. As a (fragmentary and open-ended) narrative, it's got a great hook (who's going to be the first to score Ed's big, dumb dial-a-hustler?) and is smartly paced ('pacing', in any conventional sense, seems to be anathema to Warhol in the earlier films). And the film is nicely, if unconventionally acted. The second half of the film, a single shot in which Joseph Campbell and Paul America size one another up in the bathroom, seems to me one of the great scenes in American cinema of the period. It's an exploration of character that gets richer and deeper as it goes along. My favorite Warhol so far. No extras on the disc.

I, a Man

This film is a series of encounters between Tom Baker and various women. There were multiple versions of the film made, and apparently on release one New York cinema screened two different versions. So the film would be different depending on which session you caught (which seriously fucked with the minds of anybody who came in late and wanted to stay through to the same point in the following session). The film has many of the same strengths as My Hustler (better acting and more revealing behaviour, visual wit, better pace), but is less strong formally, maybe because it's more diverse.

However, it does have those brilliant strobe cuts. This effect was achieved by switching the camera off and on in mid-shot, and the effect it gives is of obtrusive, flashing cuts, or, when used in rapid succession, of primitive pixillation. It's weirdly energising, like human animation in the middle of an indoor electrical storm. Applied to a city nightscape, the effect is quite different and even more elemental.

The film also serves as a great portrait of Andy's coterie. Ingrid is great, as usual; a very shy Nico features in a short, touching fragment; Bettina Coffin gets to stretch out in the film's long, climactic encounter; and Valerie Solanas is abrasive in a stairwell encounter predicated on her impulsive grabbing of Tom's "squishy ass."

The disc has one superb extra, an interview with Stefania Casini. As far as I can tell, it's got no relevance whatsoever to either of the films, but it offers a great insight to Warhol's world in the 70s and 80s.

The Chelsea Girls

This is the film I was most eagerly anticipating out of the set, but my reaction was a little mixed. The film is so complex that it requires further viewings, but I found it considerably less immediately engaging than most of the others in the set. I enjoyed the first pairing (Nico vs Ondine), drifted a little with the next pairing (Boys in Bed, which seemed more interesting, was soundless), and fell right out of the film during the Hanoi Hannah episodes. That was the low point, and things got steadily better thereafter, with the last hour superb. Eric Emerson and the Lights on Stars episodes worked beautifully together on a visual level, almost like animated stained glass, and the presence of Eric on both screens added to the personality fragmentation on display. Similarly, the psychedelic Nico episode is a great visual complement to Pope Ondine in the last lap. The film works much better for me when the screen isn't split between two competing narrative / text-based episodes. The Hanoi Hannah pairing, where the screen is split between two timeframes of the same narrative, is an idea I found formally intriguing, but in action it didn't work for me at all.

Soundtrack note: I have no idea how authentic or ‘official' the sound mix is on this disc. I assume that all of the component films originally had their own soundtracks and that they were mixed in and out during presentation (rather than running on top of one another for the whole 3+ hours). What we get on the disc soundwise is as follows (the starts of the episodes on the left / right hand side of the screen are staggered to reproduce the experience of a 'live' screening - at the halfway point there's an extended break on the RHS to 'reset' the staggering to some degree):

Episode 1: Nico in Kitchen (RHS) - 10 minutes
Episode 2: Pope Ondine and Ingrid (LHS) - 30 minutes
Episode 3: Brigid Holds Court (RHS) - 30 minutes
Episode 5: Hanoi Hannah (RHS) - 30+ minutes (entire reel)
Episode 7: Mario Sings Two Songs (RHS) - 10 minutes (sound fades out, remainder of this brace of episodes - the other one is The Gerard Malanga Story - runs silent)
Episode 9: Eric Says All (RHS) - 30+ minutes (entire reel)
Episode 11: Pope Ondine (RHS) - 30+ minutes (entire reel)
Episode 12: Nico Crying (LHS) - 15 minutes (sound turned up in the middle of the reel, thus running simultaneous with the end of Pope Ondine)

So, almost all of the episodes on the left hand side of the screen (4, 6, 8, 10) run silent; there's about 20 minutes where the entire film is silent (during episodes 7 / 8) and there's about 20 minutes at the very end when the sound from both concurrent episodes is audible.

Does anybody know if this scheme conforms to established procedures for mixing the sound of the film, or is this just one of a number of random possibilities? If the latter, this would have been a great (missed) opportunity for multiple soundtracks. As with the speed issue mentioned above, this mix of the soundtrack seems to be a decision made by the Warhol Foundation rather than Raro Video, so while it has 'official' status, I'm not prepared to accept it as aesthetically valid without some more evidence.

Extras: a whole disc of them, mostly interviews. By far the most interesting are Jonas Mekas' Scenes from the Life of Andy Warhol, a lovely collage of period home movies and recordings (lots of rough-as-guts field recordings of the VU), and an accompanying interview of Mekas conducted by Paul Morrissey.
Last edited by zedz on Tue Jun 24, 2008 5:26 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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#35 Post by denti alligator » Tue Jan 09, 2007 9:58 pm

David Ehrenstein wrote:Quite true. They are illegal bootlegs.
So why aren't we seeing official versions?

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#36 Post by David Ehrenstein » Wed Jan 10, 2007 1:49 pm

Because the Warhol Museum has no interest in producing official versions for mass consumption. It owns the films and the Museum of Modern Art leases them for public view in non-profit settings.

Paul Morrissey's films (Flesh, Trash, Heat) are avilable on home video and for mass public screening. They are not "by Andy Warhol" as such.

It's a shame that Andy's films aren't widely available, especially now with the arrival of the loathesome Factory Girl. Moviegoers who've neever seen Vinyl Poor Little Rich Girl, Beauty #2, Kitchen, Hedy or Outer and Inner Space won't have a clue as to what Edie was really like.

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#37 Post by denti alligator » Wed Jan 10, 2007 2:04 pm

David Ehrenstein wrote:Because the Warhol Museum has no interest in producing official versions for mass consumption. It owns the films and the Museum of Modern Art leases them for public view in non-profit settings.
What would make them change their minds?

And isn't "mass consumption" exactly what Warhol was all about? I mean, c'mon, folks! Let's get these fine pieces of film art out there.

Question: should I go for these RARO versions? or is there even a small chance these films might get an official release?

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Matt
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#38 Post by Matt » Wed Jan 10, 2007 2:13 pm

It's my sense that a lot of Warhol scholars think that since Warhol abandoned filmmaking quite abruptly and never returned to it, that he didn't take it as seriously as painting (and is therefore not worthy of public and critical engagement). If the Ric Burns documentary and the publication of the first volume of the film catalog raisonné is any indication, this perception is (slowly) changing.

But again, I can't understand why if I can buy authorized Warhol coasters and martini glasses and aprons, someone with some authority hasn't approached Criterion about collaborating on a DVD release.

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#39 Post by fred » Wed Jan 10, 2007 3:23 pm

Matt wrote:It's my sense that a lot of Warhol scholars think that since Warhol abandoned filmmaking quite abruptly and never returned to it, that he didn't take it as seriously as painting (and is therefore not worthy of public and critical engagement).
A lot of Warhol scholars are idiots. I can't count how many times I've read accounts--by reputable "scholars"--of major works such as Sleep and Empire which get the running times of these films completely wrong. By hours.

Even the Museum of Modern Art has a hard time taking the films seriously. I was there for a screening of Empire once where they started setting up tables and chairs in front of the screen for an event the next day, while the film was still running. Then the curtains closed abruptly and the film just stopped, several hours before it was over. Cue the jokes about the nature of the work, but they wouldn't dare hang a painting with a curtain covering 25% of the canvas. Sometimes I think there's a reason that they exhibit film in the basement.

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#40 Post by David Ehrenstein » Wed Jan 10, 2007 5:09 pm

A lot of Warhol scholars are idiots.
Indeed they are. When I met Andy in 1965 he told me that he was "giving up painting" for film. The flower paintings were to be his swan song. He didn't take up painting in earnest again until after the shooting.

But what's going on with this situation devolves from a continued controversy as to where film stands as an "art form." As "High Art" it would belong in a museum. But that's not what Andy wanted with any of his films. He made them to be seen anywhere and everywhere by all and sundry. He was the least elitist of artists -- and therefore a perpetual problem to the status quo.[/u]

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#41 Post by Lino » Wed Jan 10, 2007 5:49 pm

I don't understand the reasoning behind the affirmation that the Raro releases are "illegal bootlegs". Raro Video was already putting them out on the home video market in the VHS age. Since they still own the rights to them, they have been slowly upgrading the films to DVD with close collaboration with the Warhol Foundation.

I have my Anthology set on the way to me mainly because I do not see a R1 release anytime soon and these are indeed the best you're gonna get for a long, long time. Besides, if Criterion was to release them, I would expect a retail price so prohibitive to make them even more unaccessible. Not to mention how long it would take for them to properly master the materials and other such time-consuming tasks.

Bottom line: go for the Raro Anthology set. Remember how long it took for Ken Anger's films to be released on DVD? Yup. And he's still alive.

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#42 Post by David Ehrenstein » Thu Jan 11, 2007 12:20 am

How can they "own the rights to them"? This is news to me -- and millions of other Warholistas.

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#43 Post by david hare » Thu Jan 11, 2007 12:34 am

David Ehrenstein wrote:How can they "own the rights to them"? This is news to me -- and millions of other Warholistas.
Is a Warholista similar to a Gremillionista? Just curious.

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#44 Post by Lino » Thu Jan 11, 2007 9:57 am

David Ehrenstein wrote:How can they "own the rights to them"? This is news to me -- and millions of other Warholistas.
Sorry, I should have specified that they own the distribution rights to them.

On a further note, I just received my set today through the mail and let me tell you this: forget Criterion's Moral Tales set. This is the one that should have been voted best DVD release of 2006! Just the sheer commitment by the part of Raro Video to put together such a well produced and designed compilation of movies is quite staggering. From the bulky booklets included on practically every DVD case (reaching MoC standards here!) to the extreme rarity of the presented material (suitably contextualized both in the booklets and extras), this is something to marvel at and treasure in the DVD world.

Take my word: anyone even slightly interested in Warhol's film work should do themselves a favour and get this set. To think I got it for only €78,30 P&P included!

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#45 Post by denti alligator » Thu Jan 11, 2007 11:53 pm

I just listened to Lou Reed and John Cale's album Songs for Drella, which besides being one of the finest "pop" (I use this term loosely) albums of all time (counting among the best work Reed and Cale ever did together--yes, including The Velvet Underground and Nico and White Light/White Heat--or alone, for that matter), is a beautiful tribute to Andy. Really moving, with a couple songs about his filmmaking, too. OT, sort of, but if you like Andy you should hear this.

Matt: the reason you can get (official) Warhol fridge magnets but not (official) DVDs of his films is because the former (and other things like them) are practical and seem "cool" to most people. Andy's films, sadly, don't conform to what most people think films should be--they don't fulfill their function as films. Fridge magnets, on the other hand... they're also more likely to generate money.

I guess I'll order the RARO set. Are there more Warhol films coming from them? Do they "own" the "distribution rights" to Fuck (The Blue Movie), by chance.

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#46 Post by toiletduck! » Fri Jan 12, 2007 12:23 am

I think it's safe to say that one is a loooong way off. Correct me if I'm wrong (please do, hopefully I'm way off), but didn't it just get publicly screened for something like the second time? Ever?

-Toilet Dcuk

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#47 Post by denti alligator » Fri Jan 12, 2007 12:31 am

toiletduck! wrote:I think it's safe to say that one is a loooong way off. Correct me if I'm wrong (please do, hopefully I'm way off), but didn't it just get publicly screened for something like the second time? Ever?

-Toilet Dcuk
It's one of Jonathan Rosenbaum's 1,000 favorite films. That's why I was curious.

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#48 Post by Lino » Fri Jan 12, 2007 8:41 am

denti alligator wrote:I guess I'll order the RARO set. Are there more Warhol films coming from them? Do they "own" the "distribution rights" to Fuck (The Blue Movie), by chance.
I just had a look at their VHS catalogue and I didn't see any more Warhol movies that are not in the DVD Anthology set, so I guess that's all you're gonna get from them. And it's plenty, trust me!

BTW, I can't find any online info about the upcoming Edie Sedgwick 7 film retrospective. Can anyone please find a link and post it here?

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#49 Post by Cobalt60 » Fri Jan 12, 2007 10:47 am

denti alligator wrote:
toiletduck! wrote:I think it's safe to say that one is a loooong way off. Correct me if I'm wrong (please do, hopefully I'm way off), but didn't it just get publicly screened for something like the second time? Ever?

-Toilet Dcuk
It's one of Jonathan Rosenbaum's 1,000 favorite films. That's why I was curious.
I'm gald to see Rosenbaum included Whale's oft over looked 1932 masterpiece "The Old Dark Horse", many a cinephile will tell you it doesn't even exist.

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#50 Post by Matt » Fri Jan 12, 2007 11:16 am

Cobalt60 wrote:I'm gald to see Rosenbaum included Whale's oft over looked 1932 masterpiece "The Old Dark Horse", many a cinephile will tell you it doesn't even exist.
Kind of takes the venom out of making fun of someone else's typo when you make one yourself.

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