Shot Andy Warhol Lili Taylor
I suppose "I Shot Andy Warhol" is different things to different people. I have argued vehemently with friends whose opinion I respect about the extraordinary merits of this film. I think "I Shot Andy Warhol" was one of the finest films of 1998. I also think this film is blessed with one of the most intense performances of any era by Lili Taylor, unforgettable in the lead role of lesbian-prostitute-feminist-deranged-Warhol-groupie Valerie Solanas. Hers is a brave, utterly believable portrayal, wrought with desperation, loneliness and a creative need chained by conventions of American society.
To expect a by-the-numbers retelling/recreation of the true events portrayed in this film - Solanas' assault of Andy Warhol - is entirely missing the point. I believe film director/writer Mary Harron was trying to reveal a type of exploitation of women that existed during this time, and certainly hovered in the shadows of the pseudo alternative arts culture of Andy Warhol's Factory - a dream-like warehouse littered with black-clad artists/writers/filmmakers instinctively creating against-the-grain works while rebelling against the conservative conventions of 1950s-1960s American culture.
Harron's version of Solanas, who would go on to publish the frightening though fascinating work "SCUM Manifesto," is a lonely, out-of-place soul. She initially appears to have found a comrade haven in Warhol's Factory. But her rage, plus her radical feminist views, eventually causes her "excommunication," leading to her assualt of Andy. The shooting itself essentially ended Warhol's artistic career, leaving wounds which would never entirely heal.
I like the contrast Harron makes several times throughout the film between Warhol (well played by Jared Harris) and Solanas - with Warhol as the effeminate introverted male and Solanas as the masculine extroverted female. These two are definitely opposite sides of the coin. I was also impressed by Harron's pointed observation of the women-hating exploitation that existed in much of the Factory's art. It has always been cool to admire Warhol and the legend of his Factory. Harron's recreation of several of the warehouse parties, including a memorable Velvet Underground concert, are some of the many highlights of this film.
But eventually in Harron's film, Solanas' radical views are too counter culture for even Warhol and company. And once again Solanas is an outcast, lonely and adrift within the confines of the New York art scene of the 1960s. "I Shot Andy Warhol" is such a sad film in many ways, detailing lost souls void of acceptable identity. Solanas' rage is the angst of all struggling outcasts, cursed by a need to create, but unable to find the proper forum or audience. That she took her rage to the ultimate extreme should not be applauded. But to place her into the conventional (and safe) category of demented psycho is not entirely accurate. It's a brave stance "I Shot Andy Warhol" makes, and perhaps it is just another form of the emotional truth of this story.
Harron's "I Shot Andy Warhol" is an alternative examination of alternative lifestyles. It's stance is disturbingly unique, with a creative style undeniable.Get your Shot Andy Warhol Lili Taylor Now!