Calling the shots
In I Shot Andy Warhol, actress Lili Taylor delivers an amazing performance as one of feminism’s most radical but sidelined ﬁgures, Valerie Solanas. Fiona Shepherd hears the case for her defence.
The way Valerie Solanas looked at it. Andy Warhol had it coming. So she shot the Pop Artist. wounding him seriously enough to prompt his withdrawal from the public eye. in the process ensuring her place in the footnotes of late 20th century counter- culture and. nearly 30 years later, as the subject of semi-biographical feature I Shot Andy Warhol.
‘Someone said “everybody wanted to shoot Andy, she was the one who did it".' says Lili Taylor, who turns in a compellineg wired performance as the lesbian radical. founder and sole member of SCUM (the Society for Cutting Up Men). and author of the eminently readable SCUM Manifesto. excerpts of which are delivered straight-to-camera by Taylor throughout the ﬁlm.
Beyond her rash assassination attempt and the subsequent publication of the only piece of her writing to amount to much. most people know little of Solanas. Her name is just one of many associated with Warhol and the fascinating creative nexus of New York's Factory, along with Edie Sedgwick. Paul Morrissey. The Velvet Underground. Ultra Violet. Viva and Gerard Malanga — they‘re all present in I Shot Andy Warhol (including an over- the-top. dragged-up Stephen Dorff as
Candy Darling). with the exception of Sedgwick and The Velvet Underground.
John Cale may have written the ﬁlm's score but Lou Reed denied permission for the use of any VU material with the result that cult US combo Yo La Tengo are left to portray a band at a Factory party playing VU-style riffs without openly proclaiming themselves to be Reed. Cale. Morrison and Tucker. even when they are joined on stage by a writhing Malanga (played by arch- ligger Donovan Leitch who seems to have made a career out of coming across like some latterday Warholite).
However, for writer-director Mary Harron. it is the gatecrasher Solanas who is the unsung interesting ﬁgure. She has wanted to make this ﬁlm since ﬁrst reading the SCUM Manifesto eight years ago. Little wonder — it’s a hugely entertaining diatribe from an unhinged woman who was often just dismissed as a lunatic, but its outrageous polemic can just as easily be recognised as witty satire. The only query is why this over- imaginative and intelligent woman didn’t manage to produce any other
iler side of the story: llll Taylor as Valerie Solanas faces the press in I Shot Andy Warhol
worthwhile literature. The source of her beef with Warhol was his lack of interest in producing her play Up Your Ass. an everyday tale of freaks and dog turds (if only she‘d tried John Waters ﬁrst. we could have avoided a very nasty shooting incident).
‘l’ve never seen anything like that Manifesto.‘ says Taylor. ‘Even today I still don’t read writing like that. that’s so unapologetic and gets right to the crux. She had so much potential and she was such a nihilist. She sabotaged her life. and they were misdiagnosing women then — so it’s hard to know what she was really - but you can’t just dismiss her as a loony. '
‘She was molested by her stepfather and they called that “soul murder". Her mother chose the man over the daughter. which exacerbated the betrayal. One analysis I read which helped me was that she was trying to get her mother’s love and the only way she could get it was if the man was out of the picture. Kill the man — that's the only way she could envisage it.‘
Steady on. This is starting to sound like the counsel for the defence.
‘l empathise with her.‘ says Taylor. a whirlwind of energy and enthusiasm in conversation. and one of American independent cinema‘s hardest working actresses. ‘I wouldn‘t want to be her friend though. She was very anti-social — the only member of her organisation — very irascible and she didn‘t listen that well.‘
Thanks to Taylor‘s pivotal performance. Harron has succeeded in making a successful biopic of a fringe cultural ﬁgure. However. to everyone with a geniune interest in the Warhol phenomenon. the depiction of the Factory is not so convincing. Jared Ham's (son of Richard) turns in a suitably blank performance as Warhol. but you get little of the buzz of innovation that initially tempted misﬁts and mavericks like Solanas through its doors. Instead. the portrait created is one of people wearing too much make- up and nursing hangovers. But then. maybe that‘s the point — Solanas as avenging angel. sweeping away the decadent scum? The decision is yours. I Shot Andy Warhol opens at the Glasgow Film Theatre and Cameo. Edinburgh. on Fri 29 Nov. The ﬁlm Is screenplay. along with the SCUM Manifesto. is published by Bloomsbury at £6. 99.
Factory issue: Jared Harris as Andy Warhol
When the original version of taut Euro thriller The Vanishing lifted director George Sluiaer from his Dutch roots to an International stage, it was a mixed blessing. Alter signing on with 20th Century Fox to do an American mate (with the proviso that, this time, there should be some moral comeuppance for the bad guy), Sluiaer watched the goalposts slrlft when Rupert Murdoch's tdreover of the studio brought the insistence that the good guy also had to survive. Further changes were forced upon him, due to a poor test screening tilled, according to the director, with semi-illiterate Mexican I'lgrants, many at whose response cards indicated they had never come across the concept of a flashback before.
Knife edge: sure Frost and Baldwin In Orimetlme
As if this wasn’t bad enough, Slulaer‘s next project was the horror movie narir Blood, cancelled a few weeks into production when its star, iilver Phoenix, died. ‘I guess alter a mourning period, you have to go on with Iiie,’ sighs Sluiaer, who is back with Crimefirne, a centennial new film which deals with the media portrayal oi serial killers in a blacker- than-black comic tone.
“crirnetirne brought me out of nearly a year at lactivlty due to the problems of closing down the shooting of Dark Blood,’ continues Sluizer. ‘l was wondering if I would go on making movies because i was so saddened by lllver's death. We’d worked very, very deeply together and he was very young. Itwasaisothedeathofaflim on which l’d been working ier more thantwoyems,dayandnight,solwas also very angry.’
Brimetime centres on the twisted relationship between a murderer (Pete
Postlethwaite) and the young actor (Stephen Baldwin) chosen to portray him in a television reconstruction programme. ‘The darkness that we all iran Inside attracted me,’ says Sluiaer about his choice of material. ‘I have a certain fascination tor excesses, ior edgy areas where qualities become perversiorrs. Where is the point that perseverance becomes obsession, where the good thing becomes a bad thing?
‘l don’t think these programmes are always well done, and they misuse and exploit people sometimes. it’s not exactly comparable, but in iloliand we also have these illckl lire-type talr shows where people will say, “i confess I killed my mother, but please forgive me” and everybody applauds. i can’t say this is the highest entertainment I can imagine.’ (Alan Morrison)
Mme goes on general release on Fri 29 Nov.
'The List 29 Mime Dec 1996 21'