Sunday, September 19, 2010

Diggin’ the Factory scene

Edie and Andy I thought I'd write a little review of the movie I watched last night, "Factory Girl."

This came out in 2006, but typically, I'm way behind on things. I've had this for a while, and finally got around to watching it.

Andy Warhol is one of my favorite artists (I love Pop art in general), and several years ago, I became fascinated with his studio, the Factory, and the whole scene involved with him in the mid to late '60s. It was a highly creative and permissive atmosphere, but drug usage was rampant. From what I've read, Warhol did not condone the use of drugs in his studio, but he also didn't put a stop to it. Speed was the drug of choice at the Factory.

I'm not sure what fascinated me about it. Maybe it was because as a scientist, such a lifestyle and such behavior was so different from mine. Glamorous, decadent, creative, dynamic, highly social, free, and definitely out of the ordinary. Of course, that's ignoring the lack of focus, the ravages of drug abuse, the STIs, running out of money, and the general disconnection from anything resembling reality.

The Factory Girl in question is Edie Sedgwick, a poor little rich girl socialite who left Cambridge to go to New York to be a star. She did all that and more when she met Andy Warhol, and she became his "It Girl." She charmed everyone she met with her big eyes, beautiful smile, and long legs. She was the star of several of Warhol's movies, and worked as a model. Her look was all her own: her waif-like figure, heavy, dark eye makeup, short silver pixie haircut. Apparently she had a very troubled childhood, with a controlling, abusive father; one of her brothers committed suicide, and another died young in a motorcycle accident. One sister broke with the family and refused to have anything more to do with them. In Warhol, she found another controlling father figure, and for a while they were inseparable. As her drug use increased, they began to pull apart, and as her family money ran out (she got little to no money from Warhol), she could no longer stay in New York and moved back to her family's ranch in Santa Barbara.

Her father placed her into a psych ward, and she seemed to kick her drug habit. She married a fellow patient she met there and seemed to be fairly happy for a while. A few months after they were married, she died of a drug overdose at the age of 28.

Here are details about Edie Sedgwick's life and death.

That's the real Edie's story. What about the movie?

I found it fairly enjoyable, and thought it captured a lot of the frenetic energy of that time. Warhol coined the term "superstar" to describe Edie, and at that time, with Warhol at her side, she truly was. I enjoyed the depiction of life and work at the Factory; the art and movies were puzzling to some, but definitely new and exciting. Many of these scenes are shot as if actual film footage from the time, and that's a nice effect.

Edie I thought it painted Edie and Andy's relationship in too stark of terms. As with all things in life, nothing is completely black and white. Andy wasn't a ruthless manipulator who used Edie and then threw her away, and Edie wasn't the completely helpless victim that fell prey to his manipulations. They were both of those things, yes, but they were also more to each other. They may have used each other (and by most accounts, Warhol did use people to further his career), but they also mutually benefited from the relationship. Edie became a celebrity because of his influence, and Andy had access to her old money connections that helped make him an art sensation. He used and manipulated her; she used and manipulated him. There was also obviously great love and affection between them, even to the point of Edie dyeing her hair silver to match his wigs; perhaps she was the female version of what he might have liked to be. Of course, their relationship never was and never would be physical.

The film also touches on Edie's relationship with Bob Dylan, although the character is called "Billy Quinn." Gee, a folk singer with a familiar raspy voice, wearing a harmonica holder around his neck...who could it be?!

I liked the movie and it kept me engaged, but I'm very interested in that era and the Factory scene, and have read quite a bit about Edie and Andy (including the book by Jean Stein that focused mainly on Edie), so I'm probably a little biased on the side of liking this. It's probably not for everyone. Lots of drugs and nudity and general depravity, and it really is sad to see the portrayal of Edie's rapid decline. I thought Sienna Miller did a good job as Edie, but I wasn't as impressed with Guy Pearce as Andy. I thought Crispin Glover did a better job as Andy in "The Doors."

If you're interested in Warhol or his Factory, you'll enjoy this as a diversion. Personally, I enjoyed the half hour extra about the real Edie more than the movie, and I would be interested in seeing if there are any documentaries that deal with her and with Warhol.


  1. Thanks for your review. I have not seen that movie but I have watched "Who shot Andy Warhol." And your review of the scene back at his factory is persistent with what I have come to learn about Andy’s character.

    My first print maker teacher, back at Cooper Union was one heavily involved with him, who always mentioned Andy’s ability to exploit others. But then again on those situations, I think that there is much more than the victim and the victimizer relationship.

    I also appreciate his relationship with Basquiat.

    To me Andy besides been a “Pop Artist,” was a conceptual one. He knew the effects that media has on people and he used limited language to express that concern. His work was about exposing commercial myths and consumerism, again highlighting the relationship between victim and the victimizer. If you believe in the power of Brillo, do not get offended when someone caught you with hundreds of boxes of it.

    By the way, some one that I used to hang out back in the eighties, was one of his tricks. Ed mentioned to me that Andy was a mayor coke addict, and that and the gun wound let him to his demise.

  2. I think I want to see this now! Linda

  3. We've been wanting to see the movie and it is in our queue and coming up, I believe.
    I am a little disappointed that historical films are often changed and characters are blended and composited. I'd rather have the true story, but I am sure that this will be entertaining. And I guess if it at least stimulates you to learn more on your own, it serves some purpose.
    Thanks for the review. It is helpful! :)

  4. I think this sounds interesting, will have to watch soon.

  5. Dialing it up on Netflix right this minute, but leaving it down the queue a bit; sounds about right for a cold winter's evening.

    Got one for you: "Tom and Viv." T.S.Eliot and his wife Vivienne Haigh-Wood. It's not really about his poetry, but about her hormone-driven mood disorder and his response to it. This one, I have to write on.

  6. I thought this movie was just okay. "I Shot Andy Warhol" was much better.

  7. Great review Beth! looking forward to seeing it. It is in our queue as Stan says, though I'm not sure how close it is to the top. With almost five hundred things in the queue, sometimes it is hard to tell when we will get to see something.


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