Reviews & Ratings for
"American Masters" Andy Warhol: A Documentary (2006)

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9 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

A Great Addition to Warhol Documentaries

Author: Mattscape21 from Canada
28 September 2006

I've seen most of the documentaries out there which follow Warhol's life and work and attempt to account for his influence. I've also read a number of books which attempt the same, as well as those written by Warhol himself or by proxy. I was quite honestly surprised then that this documentary presented a great deal of his early work that was relatively unfamiliar or little seen. Because of this minute detail in the early years, his later work was given short-shrift. The 80's were breezed through. (Perhaps there are plans to flesh out the later years in the future).

The talking heads are wonderfully pretentious on occasion and fairly incisive on other occasions. Most humorously, one comment from some expert is often immediately contradicted by another expert; The scenes are juxtaposed to highlight this paradox of the Warhol mystique -- that it is everything and its opposite depending on who you ask. And that is usually what is great about the commentary on Warhol: his work is so immediate that the academic folk make a myth out of the man as much as or more than they do the work. Not that Warhol didn't nurture that myth.

The only striking problem with the film was the over-dramatization of Warhol's own words, many taken from his book 'The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again'. I noticed the same lachrymose readings in Burns's recent documentary on Eugene O'Neill. This is much more sporadic in the Warhol film, but I found the O'Neill doc hard to watch because of all the (over)ACTING! by those who read from his plays.

P.S. -- Cheers to Robert Sean Leonard in both the mentioned documentaries. He was the most restrained and evocative in his readings.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Longwinded, Flawed, and Not Extremely Interesting

Author: RbDeraj from United States
1 March 2015

This documentary started off strongly but the quality quickly fell. It focused more on his work rather than him and his life which was somewhat disappointing. They looked far too deeply into the "hidden meanings" of what he was thinking about, his reasoning and motivations, which was all just speculation. They claimed he always wanted fame and was purely driven by that one "fact." In reality it is just a theory and their confident "certainties" were mostly conjecture and purely guesses. A lot of the interviewed "experts" weren't even alive at the time so they had little to no first hand sources and that is a problem considering that this is recent modern history. The did have footage from some of his close friends and brother, but not nearly enough.

The center of attention seemed to be Warhol's sexuality which many times was irrelevant the context of the discussion at hand. Everything seemed to revolve around that though and they kept just coming back to it. Most of the interviewees almost viewed Warhol as a god, yet he had many faults and they even revealed that he was a stalker, sexual pervert and a sick man. Andy even said at one point that it was too bad he couldn't have filmed a friend's death when he jumped out a window while thinking he could fly when high on speed. They also made some stupid remarks like "I don't think he was a bad person I just think he did some awfully bad things." Now if that isn't the epitome of contradiction I don't know what is. Many of those who knew him said they disliked things about him like his manipulativeness, how he treated people badly, took advantage of people, and made much of his fame from the deaths of celebrities at the time.

With all of Andy Warhol's faults they always acted like he was justified in actions because he was an artistic genius. That is no excuse. For example they claimed illegal drugs helped him stay up longer and make great art so it was all peachy keen. Because of his skill at making art and being one of the best, they start comparing him to Jesus in a symbolic way and with the subject of his attempted assassination a martyr. His friends said he was an amphetamine addict yet they also claimed he rarely did drugs and just watched others participate. There is another example of completely conflicting statements.

The general consensus of the documentary was that everything Warhol did or touched was genius. For example filming a guy sleeping or a still video of a building. How is that at all interesting or appealing. I was looking more for an informational about Warhol's life not some fanatic's view of him.

Some of their other comments just didn't make any sense. They said he was Elvin in nature, and that getting a haircut is an example of power and sexual submission. Now that is one I have never heard before! Remember that next time you get your haircut! Another comparison that was utterly ridiculous was that "everything is a human face from coke bottles to urine stains." What!?!? Almost all of their experts claimed Andy was an unemotionally being yet talk about his "emotional roller-coaster" of relationships and his breakdowns after breakups and as a result of his stalking episodes.

One thing that it did do extremely well was that it drew very interesting relationships between his work and events that happened in his life especially his childhood. They could have used a lot more actual footage, interviews from the time, and his process of making art. One thing that bugged me was that even the "art experts" called many of his works "paintings" while they are actually screenprints. It was very longwinded, flawed and not very interesting for the most part.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Too much for the average viewer...this is for your PhD in Warhol-ology

Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
18 February 2012

If you are looking for a casual introduction to the life of Andy Warhol or if you even want an intermediate look, then I suggest you find another documentary. That's because this one clocks in at a whopping four hours in length!! And, frankly, it seemed like they only had material enough for two or three hours. So, instead of telling his life story, often the film consists of folks who knew him or collected his art saying what a genius he was. A few of these folks seemed a bit overzealous--such as the guy who tried to draw a simile between Warhol and Jesus!! This gushing love and analyses seems VERY repetitive and even self-serving after a while--less would have worked better. Plus, the film really does NOT go in great depth about Warhol's life (despite the length of the show). Some of this is because Warhol LIKED to be seen as superficial and some of it is because instead of talking about HIM, it talks a lot about his work.

It's also problematic because some parts of the film seem incomplete or take HUGE chunks of the film when they shouldn't have. Almost the entire third hour is about his films--art-house films which practically no one ever is exposed to--in great contrast to his art. Oddly, however, his commercial films aren't even mentioned (such as his versions of Dracula and Frankenstein)! I just didn't understand this. Overall, a film that I think should be edited into two or perhaps three hours. Unless you are a HUGE Warhol junkie, there is just too much to keep your interest.

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Author: Dave T from Chicago
7 April 2016

A deeply flawed film. As others have remarked, too heavy on Warhol's sexuality and too much gushing critical praise bordering on worship. Just not enough interesting material for 4 hours of documentary.

Now, here's the most annoying aspect of this documentary: Ric Burnes' ghastly use of his brother's technique - the'Ken Burnes Effect'(KBE). For anyone unfamiliar, this means the relentless zooming and panning across old photos, and in this case, artworks. I presume this gives the film makers added material (and movement) as they can zoom in and focus on different parts of a single image getting double or triple duty from limited resources. Completely unnecessary for an artist as prolific as Warhol - in fact, there were very few works shown full-frame in their entirety.

The use of KBE in this documentary is just plain aggravating. Imagine roaming through an art gallery looking at everything as if through a keyhole! Works of art are obviously meant to be seen whole - not in bits and pieces. Here, nearly all of Warhol's painted/screened works are presented zoomed and panned - an abomination, and a wasted opportunity to present these works to the public as they should be viewed. What a shame.

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