This morning, the Museum of Modern Art announced a partnership with the Andy Warhol Museum and MPC, a digital visual effects (VFX) studio, to digitize the complete collection of Andy Warhol’s films. Beginning this month, the partnership hopes to make Warhol’s about 500 films–many of which have never been seen–more accessible through their digitization.
Beginning with his film Sleep, which, as the title suggests, captures poet John Giorno sleeping, Warhol’s film career lasted from about 1963 to 1972 when he turned the directing over to Factory regular Paul Morrissey.
As a longtime lover of Warhol’s films, today’s announcement brought on some wild-eyed gushing and reminiscing over my favorite of Warhol’s cinematic output. And I’m certainly not the only one influenced by Warhol’s unique and often very sleazy aesthetic.
As our filth elder John Waters stated on Warhol’s films in an interview with the Pittsburgh City Paper: “That was a huge influence on me. He also put gay people and drugs together for the first time! He made it cool to be gay. Before, gay people were kind of square, in the 50s. They got in drag as Miss America. Andy brought along Mario Montez, the great Mario Montez. And even [Warhol’s] women were female impersonators. They were just female female impersonators, in a way.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, John.
So in honor of MoMA’s recent announcement, which we’re sure will bring even more Warhol favorites to light, here are our 5 favorite Warhol films:
1. Taylor Mead’s Ass (1964)
No Filthy Dreams list should ever start without something alarming. Enter Taylor Mead’s Ass. The film was created after a letter to the editor in the Village Voice complained that Warhol’s films were “films focusing on Taylor Mead’s ass for 2 hours.” Though not a full, excrutiaitng two hours, Warhol makes it to an hour of poet and Downtown icon Mead dancing, swaying and sticking various objects into his, well, ass.
Completed during the early era of Warhol’s films, which were notable for their silent, slow and almost meditative atmosphere, Taylor Mead’s Ass is certainly different with Mead’s own campy and outrageous humor shining through the entirety of the film.
2. Vinyl (1965)
Move over Stanley Kubrick! Vinyl is a silver 60s restaging of A Clockwork Orange even before Kubrick thought of whistling “Singing in the Rain.” However, you would be hardpressed to actually figure out a narrative in Warhol’s version through the whip-dancing, bondage play, Edie Sedgwick’s near constant aloof smoking and dancing to Martha and the Vandellas. There really is nowhere to run now baby!
Speaking of Sedgwick, Vinyl is often named as the first appearance of ultimate Superstar Edie Sedgwick in a Warhol film though she appeared uncredited in an earlier film Horse. Poor Warhol assistant and lead of Vinyl Gerard Malanga got a little upstaged by Edie’s captivating and fragile beauty. Well, you and your dancing has always been the star to me, Gerard!
3. Lou Reed’s Screen Test (1966)
While I adore most if not all of Warhol’s captivating portrait-like screen tests, Lou Reed’s may be my absolute favorite. Drinking a Coke while wearing cooler-than-thou shades, Lou Reed just exemplifies the Pop Silver Factory. He just makes you want to run, run, run, run, run back to the 60s. Originally silent, this clip features Dean & Britta’s version of the Velvet Underground’s “Not A Young Man Anymore” from their 13 Most Beautiful…Songs For Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests soundtrack.
4. Hedy (1966)
Possibly the campiest Warhol film and therefore, probably my all-time favorite, Hedy is a fictional account of the infamous Hollywood icon Hedy Lamarr, played gloriously by none other than drag queen Mario Montez. Beginning with Hedy on a plastic surgery table rambling about looking 14, the film descends into the camp chaos as Hedy shoplifts, gets arrested and is put on trial, with her five former husbands appearing as witnesses. If Mario Montez’s scenery chewing weren’t enough, Hedy features a surprise appearance by Jack Smith and cacophonous music by The Velvet Underground
5. Empire (1964)
And finally, last but certainly not least, we can’t forget Warhol’s 8-hour opus Empire, a portrait of the ultimate New York Superstar–The Empire State Building. Is it boring? Of course, it’s boring! But as Warhol famously said, “I like boring things.” I can’t argue with that, can you?