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Absolut Warhola (2001)


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Release Date:

29 November 2001 (Germany)  »

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Warhol Total  »

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1.66 : 1
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Misguided documentary offers no insight into history of Andy
2 April 2004 | by (NYC) – See all my reviews

For the most part I agree with the negative review posted below but I have a few other choice comments. As someone who has researched and obsessed over Warhol for years I have to say that this film is incredibly misleading in presenting itself as a film that has something to do with Warhol. It has in all actuality very little. Filmmaker Stanislaw Mucha, led by a man who is supposed to be the Ruthenian Andy Warhol lookalike, wanders around Mikova, the Czech village where Warhol's mother and father descend from. The film focuses itself on the supposed Aunts, cousins and distant relations of Warhol - people who know little about his personal life and share little to no appreciation or understanding of his art. Many of them have never even seen a picture of Warhol himself. All of these people seem to have their own interpretation of Warhol's myth. They all claim him as their own, speaking of Warhol as though he were actually born in the Czech republic, and believe he was eager to return to Mikova before his untimely death in 1987. All of them refuse to acknowledge Warhol's homosexuality - in the only section of the film that truly makes a statement - claiming that no homosexuals ever came from Mikova, so there is no way that Warhol was a "you-know-what." They have never seen Warhol's Torso series (of pornographic gay sex images) or his Oxidation (piss) paintings, nor would they understand or appreciate them. Their interpretation of the 1969 shooting of Warhol (detailed in "I Shot Andy Warhol,") is believed by most of these men and women to be a lover's quarrel that occured when Valeria, Warhol's girlfriend, wanted to marry him but he turned her down. They use this delusion to support their theory that he was not homosexual. One woman also describes her disdain for the paintings that Warhol once supposedly sent back to her, eventually throwing out what today would likely be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Warhol's alcoholic aunt comments, "He looks like a monkey," when she sees her first picture of him.

The film really never explores what is the central irony of these people - that Warhol spent his life erasing negative aspects of his personality and history from the public persona that defined him. He would never have traveled back to such a squalid un-glamorous village, and when in one instance Diana Vreeland referred to him as being from Czechoslovakia he insisted that he didn't know what she was talking about - he was "From Pittsburgh." He disliked the intense ethnicity of his background, and remained distant from his family except for his mother, for whom he cared until he sent her to live in a nursing home where she died a few years later. The filmmakers never really explore Warhol himself, why exactly it was that he chose to erase perceived negative aspects of himself - homosexuality, ethnicity - from his image. In fact, the people in the film represent the kind of puritanical, bigoted, and un-artistic point of view that Warhol so dismayed and escaped from with both his art and his life style. Even his close family members did not appreciate his art, and he remained distant with both his brothers, who swooped in upon his death to claim his fortune, along with everyone else. The villagers of Mikova, who refuse to admit Warhol's homosexuality, and can't understand or admire his art, myopically claim him as their own but are never confronted with their own delusions. But perhaps that is not even the point. For it is also the people who claim to appreciate his art who are also delusional. The owner of the Warhol Museum in a nearby town sees no need to repair the leaky room which on a daily basis leaks buckets of water into a room filled with expensive prints of Warhol's work. He also refuses to admit the gypsies of that same village into the museum. Warhol would have been aghast at this movie, in both the intrusion into the ugly minds of his ancestors, and the failure to reall be anything but boring. After the interesting moments I've mentioned occured, the film descends quickly into filler moments - an Andy Warhol double tries to walk to the supermarket to buy a can of soup, a Slovakian rock group led by the museum's owner sings horrible songs about Warhol in the square, while the squalid and impoverished villagers look on, bewildered, and in the final half hour of the film, there is little to look at except drunken peasants singing endless Slovakian folk songs, until the blissful moment of the credits fills the screen. This is not really a film about Warhol, but not really a film about Warhol's relatives either. The filmmakers likely had wide access to archival materials detailing Andy Warhol's mother, who lost her first baby and traveled to America to be with her husband, but all the filmmakers give us is a tree where the two supposedly met. It's clear that pitching this film as a film about Warhol may have enabled the filmmakers to find funding more easily, but they've really squandered their opportunity to make a thoroughly effective and intelligent piece that explores all sides of the Warhol mythology. Andy deserves a better film than this. He would have hated it.

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