Trashy, goofy, and surprisingly sincere, this superhero fantasy is better than you expect but not as good as it should be.
Andy Warhol presents, a film written, directed and, photographed in color by himself.
What bothers me is the way it's done. Andy Warhol comes along with a genuinely new way of looking at things: pop art. He also has a sense of humor and a certain feel for the mood of our times. He was right. We were ready for pop art.
Then a lot of people, mostly from New York, invest large sums of money in Warhol. Once they've done that, they have a vested interest in keeping his stock up. Their interest is all the more frantic since most of them, I suspect, secretly believe Warhol's soup cans are worthless. They lack the wit to see that Warhol's art really is amusing and pertinent.
So they overpromote Andy, who overextends himself, and eventually he starts making movies because movies are fashionable. But his movies are not movies. They're objects, like his soup cans.
There is such a thing as a movie, and I think I can spot one when I see one. But Warhol is not making movies. "I, a Man" is not a movie. It is an elaborate, deliberately boring joke.
Those who take It seriously don't understand that the movie isn't the point, but the IDEA of the movie. Warhol once made a movie of the Empire State Building that lasted eight hours. The idea isn't to sit there and look at the building for eight hours; the idea is to consider the implications of such a movie being made.
But Warhol movies are no longer thought of in this way. They are patronized by people who have been duped into thinking they'll see something really juicy (hey, mister, you wanna see a dirty underground movie?). So Warhol is big on 42d St. in New York, where there's an inexhaustible supply of dirty old men of all ages, willing to be incredibly bored for hours on end in the futile hope of getting a cheap voyeuristic thrill.
Then let it be said that "I, a Man" is not dirty, or even funny, or even anything but a very long and pointless home movie. Tom Baker, the man, visits a series of women who talk to him about whatever occurs to them. The sound track is deliberately fuzzed up: You can't understand most of the dialog, which is apparently the idea and may even be an act of mercy. After 90 minutes of this, the movie is over and you can leave.
We have, in Chicago, experimental filmmakers who are incomparably more interesting, inventive, talented and (yes!) entertaining than Warhol. We have Tom Palazzolo, Ron Taylor, John Heinz, Ron Nameth and a dozen more. Better than Warhol. A lot better than Warhol, and brighter and fresher and with the desire to create with the camera rather than pervert it with deliberately obscurantist methods.
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