jeudi 28 mai 2009

Andy Warhol

We have one more of those curious paradoxes with which Warhol's work abounds. There is this popular notion that Warhol is the commercial artist of the Underground. That notion is promoted by both the wider public and by the aestheticians of the avant-garde. The paradox is that the cinema of Andy Warhol, more than any other cinema, is undermining the accepted notions of the American entertainment and commercial film. The cinema of Brakhage or the cinema of Markopoulos or the cinema of Michael Snow has nothing to do with the entertainment film. They are clearly working in another, non-narrative, non-entertainment area, as in a classical way and meaning we say all poetry is in a different area. But the cinema of Warhol, The Chelsea Girls, The Nude Restaurant, The Imitation of Christ, is part of the narrative cinema, is within the field of cinema that is called 'movies,' it deals with 'people,' is part of if. Is part of if, but is of a totally different ilk. That's why the movies of Andy Warhol cannot be ignored by the commercial exhibitors. At the same time, once they are in, and they are ln,they are undermining, or rather transforming, or still more precisely, transporting the entertainment, the narrative film to an entirely different plane of experience. From the plane of purely sensational, emotional and kinesthetic entertainment, the film is transported to a plane that is outside the suspense,outside the plot, outside the climaxes - to a plane where we find Tom Jones, and Moby Dick, and Joyce, and also Dreyer, Dovzhenko, and Bresson. That is, it becomes an entertainment of a more subtle, more eternal kind, where we are not hypnotized into something but where we sort of study, watch, contemplate, listen - not so much for the 'big actions' but for the small words, intonations, colors of voices, colors of words, projections of the voices; the content that is in the quality and movements of the voices and expressions (in the Hitchcock or Nichols movies the voices are purposeful, theatrical monotones) - a content of a much more complex, finer and rarer kind is revealed through them. And these faces and these words and these movements are not bridges for something else, for some other actions, no: they are themselves the actions. So that when you watch The Imitation of Christ, when you watch this protagonist who does practically nothing, who gays very little - when you watch him from this new, transported plane of the New Art (all minimal art exists on this transported plane) - you discover gradually that the occupation of watching him and listening to him is more intellectually fruitful, more engaging, and more entertaining than watching most of the contemporary 'action' and 'entertainment' or serious 'art' movies. A protagonist emerges with a unique richness of character. All the mystical and romantic seekers of Truth and God have left their marks in this character. Patrick is the hero of the end of the 20th century. Every little word, sound, hesitation, silence, movement reflects it totally and completely. Not that Warhol made him act that way, to be that way: he chose him perfectly and flawlessly and allowed him to be himself within the context, and chose him for those qualities and in that place.

Jonas Mekas, Notes After Reseeing the Movies of Andy Warhol (extrait), publié dans Andy Warhol Film Factory, Michael O'Pray ed., British Film Institute, 1989