Factory Girl

How different would Factory Girl have been if Andy Warhol were still alive? Would he have threatened to sue like Bob Dylan?  Or would have cursed it out like Lou Reed? He called it, “one of the most disgusting, foul things I’ve seen — by any illiterate retard — in a long time. There’s no limit to how low some people will go to write something to make money."

Of the negative reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, my favorite quotes are from Fernando Croce at Cinepassion.org and Brian Holcomb at Cinemablend.com. I like them not because I agree with them (at least not entirely) but because they hit the right pop culture references.

The pullout quote from Fernando’s review calls the film: “Far less insight than the flattest of E! True Hollywood Story segments.”

And Brian says: “Summing up a complex human being in two hours is like an MTV spot about Nelson Mandela cut to a Kanye West track. We don’t really get to know Sedgwick at all.”

Nathan Lee at the Village Voice called his review: “Edie Made Easy.”  That superficial, “paint-by-numbers,” “Edie-for-Dummies,” perception is a consistent one in both the positive and negative reviews I’ve read. Everyone complains there wasn’t enough “insight” or depth. It’s that Woody Allen joke from Annie Hall about the two old ladies who complain about a trip to the Catskills. One says, “The food was awful,” and the other adds, “Yes, and in such small portions.”

I wasn’t dissuaded by the bad reviews. I was really enjoying Popism and wanted to see “the foul thing” for myself. There’s a picture of Andy and Edie on the cover of the book (Popism, not the book that inspired the movie). I figured of all the images of Warhol in the 60s that could have been the cover, the designer choosing the one with him and Edie must mean something.

I like Factory Girl. I came into it without the prior subject knowledge that made it a disappointment to the other critics. To be honest, I hadn’t given either Andy or Edie much consideration as “regular people” until after the movie. I like Andy’s books, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol and Popism, but hadn’t given him shape as a living, breathing “regular person” (as opposed to icon and celebrity) with “regular person” wants and frustrations.

If I didn’t give much consideration to Andy as a “regular person,” Edie received even less. She was a name only. A name I’d associate with Warhol but had very little meaning beyond the reference. Factory Girl got me interested in learning more about Edie Sedgwick. I would like the read Edie: An American Biography. And I’ve been combing You Tube for clips of interviews with Edie and Ciao! Manhattan.

I found this one from edienation.com:

The two most poignant scenes for me in Factory Girl occur after the relationship between Edie and Andy sours. The first is that scene when she walks in on a “screen test” of a new girl with short blonde hair. Andy and the other Factory people are standing around her, coaxing her to “say it like Edie.” The girl says something and everyone laughs except Edie. She gets upset and pleads, “She’s nothing like me.” Everyone ignores her and she runs out.

The other scene is where we catch a glimpse of her at some party where Nico is singing and she is depicted in the background behind Nico, dazed and mouthing along to the song. The real life event is described in Popism:

Edie had come with Bobby Neuwirth. While the crews filmed and Nico sang her Dylan song, Gerard noticed (he told me this later) that Edie was trying to sing, too, but that even in the incredible din, it was obvious she didn’t have a voice. He always looked back on that night as the last tile she ever went out with us in public, except for a party here and there. He thought that she’d felt upstaged that night, that she’d realized Nico was the new girl in town.

There are a million engaging stories to tell about Edie Sedgwick. The one chosen by Factory Girl’s writer is one of them: a tug-a-war between Andy Warhol and Bob Dylan for the soul of Edie Sedgwick.  I’m not a Warhol expert or even a huge fan, but from what I read and what I’ve heard, I think Warhol would have liked the movie too. It would have given him something to talk about. He would have asked his friends, “Is that how people really see me?”

He would have also appreciated that Guy Pearce being cast as him. There’s a part in Andy Warhol’s Popism, where he describes the thrill he gets from imagining which Hollywood heartthrob would play him in a movie.

Where I find fault with the film is its lack of “art” and creativity (though, I think here too, Warhol would have appreciated it because it was a “Hollywood” style movie with its simple narrative and simple shots). From Ciao! Manhattan to Poor Little Rich Girl, there  is so much material to be inspired by. I don’t feel the people who made Factory Girl dug deep enough or played enough with the shooting and recording of the script they used.

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