Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Factory Girl

Factory Girl (George Hickenlooper, 2006) [3]
A mess on a formal and story level, Hickenlooper's Edie Sedgwick biopic is only interesting for Guy Pearce's portrayal of Andy Warhol. Manny Farber wrote an article years ago that shows up in film theory classes about white elephant and termite art. It's an interesting concept to me and it's important in this film because Pearce's performance is the embodiment of termite art. Farber's theory defines termite art as when an actor's performance exists and stands out on its own from the rest of the overall tone of the film, Farber's example being John Wayne in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Pearce here seems to be out on his own, playing Warhol with the kind of commitment and uniqueness that the rest of the film lacks. It's not a great portrayal; it seems to boil down Warhol's complex personality down to he's a fame seeking mama's boy. Still, it starkly stands out from the cluelessness of Hickenlooper's direction. The thing about termite art is that it's usually marked as unique performances in bad films. While not awful, the film never finds any continuity. Sienna Miller plays Sedgwick as the 60's era Paris Hilton that she was, famous for being famous. She offers no real insight into the character emotionally and when the film tries to, Hickenlooper moves quickly on to something else. The film rushes so quickly through Sedgwick's time with The Factory that Hickenlooper never stops to examine anything closely. The only effort he makes is her relationship with "musician", who's clearly meant to be Bob Dylan but can't be through threat of character defamation. Hayden Christensen has zero on-screen charisma with Miller, playing the character about as superficially as every other one outside of Pearce's Warhol. Then there's the whole issue with the film formally. Hickenlooper uses so many tricks like switching film stocks and hyper editing choices that give the film no formal identity. He also tries to recreate Warhol's films, notably Poor Little Rich Girl and Vinyl. Having seen Vinyl and knowing of Wahol's style, the minimalism, static frame, and deconstructionist elements of those films is the complete opposite of the style that is in use here. He would have been better off making the film using the elements Warhol used. At least it would have made more sense formally then. Thinking of that, it would be a film more about Warhol than Sedgwick but after judging Guy Pearce's performance, it may not be that bad of a decision.

No comments: