I SHOT ANDY WARHOL is set mainly in the mid 60s and is based on a
true story. It is done in quasi-documentary style and tells about the
life of Valerie Solanas (Lili Taylor) who shot Andy Warhol (Jared
Harris) because "he had too much control over my life." The reason he
had so much control is because he would not produce her play claiming
it was "too disgusting even for us." I can not even repeat its name in
this G rated review of an R rated film.
The movie starts with Andy alive but his body bloody and quivering
after being shot. The police want to know why she shot him, but she
keeps telling them it is too complicated to explain. The film then
switches to her time in college and works it way back to the shooting.
The best thing going for this basically worthless film is the
strong and effective performance by Lili Taylor. Valerie describes
herself as a "butch dyke." She is as tough as nails. After college
she supports herself with panhandling and heterosexual prostitution
while living a life as a lesbian. She starts a one person
revolutionary group called SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men), and she
reads constantly from her SCUM Manifesto. A lot of her philosophy is
obtuse. She says, "You got to go through a lot of sex to be ready for
anti-sex." She hangs out with her friend Stevie (Martha Plimpton) and
Stevie's girlfriend, the male transvestite Candy Darling (Stephen
The cinematography (Ellen Kuras) is in color, but with many cuts
to grainy black and white footage of Valerie reading from her play or
her manifesto. The slow editing (Keith Reamer) and the almost
non-existent music (John Cale) of the film is in sharp contrast to the
vibrant and energetic trailers for the picture. I was impressed by the
trailers. Warhol is right about the play being crude. The longest
excerpt we hear has to do with everyone eating excrement.
I had a lot of trouble trying to figure out why this picture was
made. What was the director trying to accomplish? I finally decided
perhaps the message was about the shallowness of the 60s drug culture
in general and of Andy Warhol in particular. In the film, we see
unhappy people doing pills, pot, LSD, and heroin. There is even a mock
Eucharist scene where they use the words to the Mass but give the kids
LSD cubes instead of the host.
Andy comes off as having no visible talent, and his brain seems to
be on another planet. When a TV reporter ask him, "Why do you spend
your time making underground films?" He answers, "It's easier than
painting." When asked which painters he likes best, he replies, "Oh,
all of them."
His friends having a vastly stilted view of "The Factory" where
Warhol's people hang out and work. His second in command as it were,
Gerard Malanga (Donovan Leitch), likens The Factory to the old MGM star
system. He then goes on to say, "Our kids are a lot like the Disney
children except they are modern kids. They take drugs and have sex."
I SHOT ANDY WARHOL runs 1:40. It is rated R. There is nudity,
explicit sex of many flavors, some violence, bad language, and lots of
smoking and drug usage. I would only let quite mature teenagers see
it. I can not recommend this film whose only claim to fame, other than
the great performance by Lili Taylor, is its attempt to shock and to
show us the nihility of the 60s drug culture and of Andy Warhol. For
Taylor's performance I give the movie * 1/2.
Copyright © 1996 Steve Rhodes