Saturday, February 09, 2008

Absolut Warhola

Good movie where a film crew finds and interviews Andy Warhol's relatives in Slovakia. It's made by a German company, with the director being Polish, which means that it's not trivialized as much as if someone in the U.S. or related countries did it.

Contrary to the blurb on the box, Warhol's relatives aren't quirky, eccentric, people, but just regular people living life. They like the fact that they have a famous artist as a relative but don't know much about art. A common occurrence. The interviews with the relatives, who may have known Warhol's mother but didn't know him personally, are very nice.

One thing that stuck out that the film makers focussed on was the Warhol museum in Medzilaborce and the director's policies. There's an interview with a Gypsy woman where she tells us that they don't allow Gypsies into the museum, and later on the director is caught admitting that they don't let Gypsies into the museum because "they're filthy and smell bad" and "they steal everything". Talks about Gypsies having more rights in Slovakia than Slovaks and rants for a little longer on Gypsies. So he's a racist and applies racist policies to his museum. The guy is fairly young and tries to present himself as being hip, which makes his racism even more stinging. Beneath the surface of a groveling apparatchik who wants to be considered part of the intelligentsia there's the same right wing racism that the intelligentsia are usually against. His attitude to the people of Medzilaborce is condescending as well.

This tendency shows in his selection of art works. Saying that they have to be 'relevant' to the towns people, he picked Warhol paintings that had Communist images and agricultural images, and picked a picture of Ingrid Bergman as a nun over a picture of Marilyn Monroe. If you're a self important person who thinks that the people around you are all inferior this may make sense, but the lie is exposed by the interviews which show that the people that he thinks can only relate to Communism and agriculture are just regular folks. Incidentally, the consequence of focussing on these things is that the collection as he presented it is totally unrepresentative of Warhol's actual work and career. And it looks like he shied away from including pure Pop Art subjects, getting the works from Warhol that were less starkly Pop Art and more painterly and abstract.

Good movie that doesn't belittle the people in it. This isn't Borat, where a guy in the Romanian town that they filmed it in was portrayed as the town abortionist without his permission, and people expecting a Borat like experience will be sorely disappointed.

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