Book Review

John G. Hanhardt, The Films of Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné, Volume 2: 1963–1965

Author: Constantine Verevis (Monash University)

  • John G. Hanhardt, The Films of Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné, Volume 2: 1963–1965

    Book Review

    John G. Hanhardt, The Films of Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné, Volume 2: 1963–1965

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Verevis, C., (2022) “John G. Hanhardt, The Films of Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné, Volume 2: 1963–1965”, Film Criticism 46(2). doi: https://doi.org/10.3998/fc.3614

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Published on
14 Dec 2022
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CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0

The undertaking to produce a two-volume catalogue raisonné of Andy Warhol films began in 1984 with the artist’s decision to release his massive body of film work – around 650 films produced across the period 1963–1968 – that had been largely inaccessible since the 1970s. Warhol’s decision led to the establishment of the Andy Warhol Film Project, and a strategic partnership between the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art’s Department of Film to preserve, restore, exhibit, distribute, and catalogue the entirety of Warhol’s cinema. Edited by Callie Angell, the first volume catalogues Warhol’s Screen Tests, the series of silent, black and white film portraits Warhol made between 1964 and 1966.1 Overseen by general editor John G. Hanhardt, with introductions by Bruce Jenkins and Tom Kalin, the second volume – 1963–1965 – documents the one hundred films (initially located and identified by Angell during her screening of the entirety of the Collection) that Warhol made across this three year period, including such significant works as Sleep, Kiss and Haircut (all 1963), Eat, Blow Job and Empire (all 1964), and Poor Little Rich Girl, Vinyl and My Hustler (all 1965).

As in the previous volume, each of the individual film listings for 1963–1965 provides exhaustive documentation consisting of a standard filmographic entry, with cataloguing number and title, date, medium, running time, cast, and credits; and a film materials entry, with recording date and type of stock, generation of film image, length in feet, and any notations found on the original film can. This type of detail overcomes the hesitation evident in “pre-Collection” books, such as Michael O’Pray’s otherwise excellent Andy Warhol Film Factory (1989) that included essays by Jonas Mekas, Ronald Tavel, Kathy Acker and others, which had to concede that no “definitive filmography” of Warhol’s works was, or would be, available until the Whitney had completed its cataloguing.2 Over and above this precise documentation, the catalogue raisonné provides notes on a much broader and valuable cultural history of the mid-1960s New York film and art worlds. As Jenkins writes in his introduction to “1963,” Warhol’s films are informed not only by his enthusiasm for Hollywood movies and icons of popular culture but also by the work of avant-garde practitioners in the New York underground film scene.3 These influences and associations, all of which Warhol absorbed into his artistic practice, shaped his attitude and world view, as conveyed in books like The Andy Warhol Diaries, POPism: The Warhol ’60s and The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again)4 which are suggested as key texts to be read alongside the catalogue raisonné.

Warhol began making films in the summer of 1963, when he first acquired his silent 16mm Bolex film camera on which all of the Screen Tests were shot (even after acquiring, at the end 1964, the 16mm Auricon sync-sound camera which was used for all his subsequent feature films). During this inaugural period Warhol drew not only upon his own artistic practice but also on prevailing forms of experimental filmmaking, including the work of underground performer-writer-filmmaker Jack Smith. Warhol openly acknowledged Smith’s influence on his work, and one of his earliest films was a single-roll, “newsreel” – Andy Warhol Films Jack Smith Filming “Normal Love” (1963) – confiscated and assumed lost when NYPD detectives raided a March 1964 screening where it played alongside Smith’s Flaming Creatures (1963).5 The following summer, Warhol embarked upon one of his most ambitious projects – the unfinished feature film, Batman Dracula (1964) – which involved around seven hours of black-and-white and color footage, a large ensemble cast, multiple shooting locations, the use of elaborate sets and costumes, and a narrative with intertwining plotlines. Jenkins writes that, for Warhol, the likely allure of the project was not only the opportunity to work with a large troupe of actors (including some who had appeared in Normal Love) but in particular the chance to collaborate with and direct Smith. The contribution of the catalogue raisonné is not only the precise description of the many assembled and additional film rolls shot for Batman Dracula (104 in total), but a broader contextualization of Warhol’s working methods and close associations: in the case of Batman Dracula, essentially a six month long collaboration between Warhol and Smith in which the former produced, shot and edited the film, and the latter provided the loose scenario, supervised costumes and décor, and starred in the dual title role. As Jenkins writes, at the core of this unfinished (rarely seen) work is a productive cultural difference: “a divide between the director and his star with respect to performance and characterization, the one [Smith] hewing to cherished protocols of the silver screen, the other [Warhol] to contemporary forms of mass culture.”6

The exhaustive accounting of Batman Dracula, and the many other Warhol films of the period, demonstrates the mission of a catalogue raisonné to document and comment upon the entirety of Warhol’s film output. Volume 2 concludes with Lupe (1965), one of the last Warhol films with Edie Sedgwick (who portrays actress Lupe Vélez), shot on December 26–27, 1965 in a luxurious apartment in the Dakotas. Ending the 2-volume edition here means that the output of Warhol’s late period – including such important works as The Chelsea Girls (1966), ★★★★ (Four Stars) (1966–67) and Lonesome Cowboys (1968) – still remains unaccounted for. A third volume is keenly anticipated.

Notes

  1. Callie Angell, The Films of Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné, Volume 1: Andy Warhol Screen Tests (New York: Abrams and Whitney Museum of American Art, 2006).
  2. Michael O’Pray, ed. Andy Warhol Film Factory (London: British Film Institute, 1989), 186.
  3. John G. Hanhardt, The Films of Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné, Volume 2: 1963–1965 (Whitney Museum of American Art and Yale University Press, 2021), 28-29.
  4. Andy Warhol, The Andy Warhol Diaries, ed. Pat Hackett (New York: Warner Books, 1989); Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett, POPism: The Warhol ’60s (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980); and Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again) (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975).
  5. See Constantine Verevis, Flaming Creatures (New York: Columbia UP, 2020), 36, 101.
  6. Hanhardt, 185.