Critics' Corner
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Desson Howe - Weekend section, "Feels so slight and pointless."

Rita Kempley - Style section,
"Obstreperous, male-bashing pain in the patoot."


Read Andy Warhol's obituary from The Post.


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'I Shot Andy Warhol'

Scene from this movie We watch Valerie Solanas, a bright, angry, slightly nutty, self-described "butch dyke," become steadily angrier and nuttier. She goes from creative, disturbed university student in the 1950s to down-and-out prostitute-panhandler in New York City in the 1960s.

After her transvestite friend Candy Darling introduces her to Andy Warhol and his circle of hangers-on, she fixates on the pop-artist as the sponsor of her success. But the enigmatic and willfully inarticulate Warhol merely throws her polite tidbits. Solanas, whose psychiatric disorders have been no secret, gets madder and madder. -- Desson Howe
Not Rated


Director: Mary Harron
Cast: Lili Taylor; Stephen Dorff; Jared Harris; Anna Thompson; Martha Plimpton
Running Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Filmography: Lili Taylor







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"Warhol': Solanas's 15 Minutes

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
May 17, 1996

The attacking of celebrities by deranged nobodies has been an ignoble banality for decades. This may explain why "I Shot Andy Warhol," an arty account of 28-year-old Valerie Solanas's 1968 assault on the pop-art superstar, feels so slight and pointless.

First-time filmmaker Mary Harron takes what amounts to a mundane, botched gun attack and desperately embellishes it with tragicomic, radical-feminist significance. Solanas, played with entertaining swagger by Lili Taylor, is highly intelligent, funny and sensitive, as she seethes with arch visions of a world populated only with women.

But as a dramatic character, Solanas's choices are handicapped by paranoia and delusion. This isn't a story, it's just a free fall. Solanas—whose murderous attempt landed her in a psychiatric prison—has nowhere to go but down.

In the movie, which includes black-and-white, fantasy asides (as Solanas reads from her "Mein Kampf"-toned, anti-male primer, the "SCUM Manifesto"), we watch a bright, angry, slightly nutty, self-described "butch dyke" become steadily angrier and nuttier. She goes from creative, disturbed university student in the 1950s to down-and-out prostitute-panhandler in New York City in the 1960s.

After her transvestite friend Candy Darling (Stephen Dorff) introduces her to Warhol (Jared Harris) and his circle of hangers-on, she fixates on the pop-artist as the sponsor of her success. But the enigmatic and willfully inarticulate Warhol merely throws her polite tidbits. He gives her $25 for a bad acting job in one of his blase-art films; and he browses admiringly through her writings, including the play, "Up Your [expletive]." Solanas, whose psychiatric disorders have been no secret, gets madder and madder.

Between its bouts of high-mindedness, however, the movie is often fun. Taylor sweetens up her raging role with amusing expressions and comments. When oily publisher Maurice Girodias (Lothaire Bluteau) asks Solanas if she likes hustling, she replies, "Well, I meet a lot of fascinating people." It's also ticklesome to experience Warhol's Factory sideshow of collaborators, freaks, hangers-on, groupies, users and flower children. Dorff is fabulous as Warhol's transvestite-starlet, Candy Darling; and Michael Imperioli plays Ondine to the hilt—the Factory equivalent of a hall monitor who tries to squeeze Solanas out of the inner circle.

The moments between Solanas and Warhol (Harris suggests a blanched Laurence Fishburne in a platinum-blond wig) are etched with comical tension. When these two interact, there's an odd kind of music between them. Her effervescent mania, given audience by the royal knave of pop art, is suddenly rendered with importance.

"Come on Valerie," says Warhol at one point, like an adult Christopher Robin to his favorite, deranged, stuffed animal. "Say something dirty. It's so easy for you."

The best movies accrue significance as they progress. With each scene, they expand to garner our empathy. But "Warhol" seems to shed significance as it goes along. It becomes smaller and smaller until it's invisible, its ultimate disappearance marked by a series of gunshots that—in this day and age—are bound to be ignored all around the world.

I SHOT ANDY WARHOL (Unrated) — Contains gun violence, profanity, nudity and sexual situations.

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"Andy Warhol,' Abrasively

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
May 17, 1996

Valerie Solanas, a flipped-out firebrand profiled in "I Shot Andy Warhol," came by her 15 minutes of fame in a spasm of hot lead and irony. But frankly, 15 minutes is more than enough time with this obstreperous, male-bashing pain in the patoot.

Solanas made headlines in 1968 when she walked into Warhol's Factory and pumped three slugs into the pop icon's chest. Though she was an advocate of male genocide, her assassination attempt had nothing to do with her radical sexual politics. Hardly a paragon of male chauvinist piggery, Warhol's sin was one of omission: He could not be bullied into producing her gross and amateurish play.

Director-cowriter Mary Harron makes her debut with this misguided effort to reinvent Solanas (Lili Taylor of "Mystic Pizza") as a visionary feminist. But the problem is that Solanas was clearly a candidate for Thorazine. Filmed in a docu-dramatic style, the drama begins with a thumbnail bio from Solanas's psychiatrist. Sexually abused as a child, Solanas first exhibited signs of instability when she took up prostitution to pay her way through the University of Maryland, where she majored in psychology.

Harron catches up with the young misfit in Manhattan two years before the shooting. Self-described as a "butch dyke," Solanas is living off the kindness of falsetto blonde and Factory regular Candy Darling (breathy Stephen Dorff). The glamorous transsexual is Solanas's idea of the perfect man because he has had the good sense to become a woman. It's Candy who provides her friend with an entree into the Factory's tragically hip society.

Solanas, also the author of the radical tract "The SCUM Manifesto," manages to interest a publisher, which leaves her all the more obsessed with her play and Warhol's apparent indifference to the project. In a last-ditch effort, she tries to tempt Warhol with a position as head of SCUM's male auxiliary if only he'll produce the play.

Warhol (odd, moony Jared Harris) offers her a part in his movie, "I, a Man"; he pays her $25 and praises her performance but slithers out of any discussion of the play. When she finally becomes persona non grata at the Factory (where she is literally turned away by Warhol's effete cronies), Solanas burrows deeper into the counterculture, finally bedding down with an underground gun freak.

Since the film opens with the shooting, there's little suspense to keep audiences interested in this narrow, albeit amusingly bullheaded loser. And Taylor's monotonously abrasive performance doesn't allow for much character development. She plays Solanas as if she fell from the Cuckoo's Nest from the start and her goal was simply to find her way back.

Some of "The SCUM Manifesto," from which she reads excerpts, actually does goose the gander. Like the late stand-up comic Sam Kinison, Solanas's sexist rants can be hilarious, but a little venom goes a long way. An hour and 40 minutes falls under the category of self-torture.

I Shot Andy Warhol is not rated but contains profanity and sexual scenes.


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