Beauty #2 (Andy Warhol / U.S., 1965):

A work of genius from the first shot to the last, which under Andy Warhol's scrutiny are simultaneously the same and monumentally diverged. The image is dense and incomplete, an isosceles triangle with an invisible side -- the rumpled mattress is lent a Cézanne angle to fill the screen, on it lounge Factory chiclet Edie Sedgwick in her leopard-skin bra and panties and some dude called Gino Piserchio in skivvies, with ex-beau Chuck Wein to the right of the screen, out of camera range yet still filling the air with chatter. "Not just another pretty face" begins the Wein asshole-hipster litany, though the focus is less on the zonked-out cutie pawing Edie's slender thighs than on the Poor Little Rich Pixie propped on a mound of pillows, conducting the image around her by reaching for cigarettes and booze then threatening to vanish inside it beneath the blasting lighting. An affable Doberman dubbed Horse enters the frame and is given petit fours, "something real" is demanded by the off-screen interrogator after Edie discusses the perfection of her giant dangling earrings; the stag-picture atmosphere is encouraged ("just a simple screw"), Chuck recites John Lennon's ever-larfing "Araminta Ditch" as the couple rolls around in the bed, tags their make-out session weak and gets an ashtray hurled at him in response. (In between, a whisper is barely audible as the first reel nears its end: "One more minute.") Indolently amused and concentrated, the film proceeds from a fleshy Design by Living audition to an arcane incantation of Mallarmé while photographing the revolt of the image against the word, or the harrowing turning point of a relationship. Voyeurism gets called out and illustrated while giddiness dawns into somberness and the medium is laid out casually, heartbreakingly -- drinking it all in is Warhol, unseen and omnipresent, deadpan and hypersensitive. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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