Paramount // 2006 // 240 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // December 21st, 2006
"I am a deeply superficial person."
- Andy Warhol
Warhol claimed "in the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes," and yet somehow Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film squeezes out two hundred forty minutes out of his life. That's much more fame than he allowed for. Born in 1928 and deceased in 1987, he transformed art and the way we see the world. Warhol was the American Dream personified, even though he was a gay guy in a wig painting soup cans. He made geeks chic, celebrities profane, and he redefined the visual arts with his endeavors in every medium you can imagine. PBS provides a wonderfully pretentious documentary that examines one of the most enigmatic personalities of the 20th century.
Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film shows us a lot of early work that hasn't been captured on film before. That is where the film adds the most to the Warhol cannon. Director Ric Burns strives to create a hagiography, a deeper story about Warhol as saint, great thinker, and cultural barometer. He traces the artist from his early days growing up in Depression era Pittsburgh in a Slavic ghetto. The most illuminating portion of the program comes early, since we get a much deeper look at his starts rather than what comes later at the end of his career. The film does not conceal the bias that Warhol is treated as a genius, and there is no restraint on painting him in a remarkable light. This is a love letter to the artist. Don't expect a cynical take on anything, or a disparaging viewpoint. The documentary is a great piece of work, but now without flaws. Part of Warhol's charm was his absolute refusal to take everything too seriously, and here is a documentary that does just that. The use of a precious emotive score is wall to wall and constant, backing up the pretentious interviews. It's a compelling look at Warhol as well as a reverent meditation on hs importance. There is no mention of embarrassing episodes such as when Andy appeared in commercials for Puerto Rican rum or guested on The Love Boat.
There is not much to the DVD presentation of Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film. Paramount places all 240 minutes on a single DVD, and adds no extra material. A still gallery of Andy's output would have made the most sense, but we are not given any way to view the works except for in the feature proper. The transfer is remarkably clear, and even in an anamorphic widescreen format. The stereo treatment for the audio portion of the program works well enough since it is all score and dialogue. It's a handsome film presented solidly with no frills.
I walked away from with the idea that Warhol was most important as a sponge, a divine observer who had faith in merely observing America. Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film may be too reverent, but it is simultaneously well-researched and entertaining. Warhol created the rules of Pop Art -- hyper colors, repetition, and ironic iconography. He deserves a film like this to celebrate his fame, and his determination. Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film is a piece for the faithful, a movie for the acolytes who still carry the torch. The claim is made Warhol was the most important artist of the 20th Century, a title Andy himself would smirk at but secretly love. The rub is as famous as the artist was, he was never as famous as he wanted to be, or as adored as he longed. Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film rectifies this by loving Andy long and hard, and treating him as a celebrity of the greatest caliber.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 240 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated