The Life of Juanita Castro (1965) Poster

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The most intellectual of Warhol's movies
nunculus4 March 2001
Warhol , it is reported, had a brilliant stroke of invention. Ronald

Tavel, the co-director, staged this absurdist romp about Castro

and Che Guevara in a single crowded space, with all the

actresses (it is an all-female cast) facing front. Tavel sits among

them, telling them what to do and say. Warhol moved the camera

from a head-on position to the side. He created the sadistic

triangle that exists in all his movies. On one side, the spectator. On

the other, the actor. On the third side, some unseen force--i.e.,

Warhol himself--to whom the actors look in supplication and hate.

Apolitically surrealist, vaguely racist, and as formalist as a

Messiaen essay on birdsong, JUANITA CASTRO exists almost

exclusively from the neck up. (The grim, overcast cinematography

may be party to this.) An etude on politics and theatre as exercises

in seen and less-seen control, CASTRO doesn't pretend to be

brainless in the way most Warhol movies do. Still, it strikes me as

no loss that Warhol gave up "having something to say."

Most contemporary audiences will find this tough going. But

something about this mass of seated women, gazing offscreen in

a collective CLOSE ENCOUNTERS stupor, feels timelessly

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A satire on the Cuban Revolution as seen through the eyes of Castro's sister.
mark czuba20 October 2000
The Team of Ronald Tavel and Andy Warhol devised to turn out movies prodigiously at the breakneck speed of one or two features per month. The inspiration for Juanita Castro, (a satire on the Cuban Revolution as seen through the eyes of Fidel Castro's sister) came easily from a variety of contemporary sources, but mostly from an article in Life magazine. Before shooting Ronald Tavel aranged three rows of seats for the actors, then he and Warhol set up the camera in front of them, not satisfied with it he moved it of to the side and placed a lamp stand where the camera was and told the actors to address the lamp stand. The dialogue is read out to the cast, then the cast recites what was said as a sort of a verbal card cue, meanwhile the camera rolls capturing everything. At the end when Juanita is ordered to stand up and address the camera she steps out of veiw of the camera and talks to the lampstand. Although Edie Sedgewick is not credited in this film, she is off ot the side and can be seen breifly.
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