One of the talked about films in the moviemaking of the late renowned artist Andy Warhol was his “The Chelsea Girls.” Now a beautiful new coffee-table-sized book explores in depth that controversial film, both admired and disliked when it was released in 1966. The volume is dramatically enhanced with striking photographs. Very impressive, “Andy Warhol’s Chelsea Girls” is a joint publication by D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers, Inc. and the Andy Warhol Museum.
There is the script for the film, which remains an avant-garde look at life in the noted Chelsea Hotel on West 23rd Street in Manhattan, including the cast of characters who were part of the free-wheeling lifestyle among renowned literary figures and others of that era.
There are profiles of those involved with the film, Warhol included, an overview of the film and samplings of the pro and con reviews of the time, reviews that ranged from criticizing the film as impossibly boring to praise for advancing the art of cinema.
The stunning photographs are generously positioned throughout the book, and the tome affords a new generation the opportunity to become familiar with those who became part of the Warhol’s retinue. Thoughtful essays help place “The Chelsea Girls” in the artistic context of the period.
(Personal disclosure: My review from Cue Magazine’s December 17, 1966 issue is included--it was on the negative side--and I am thanked for my cooperation in the acknowledgments.)
I was not prepared for how impressive the book is when I received my copy. It is quite an achievement to take one film, a disputed one at that, and come up with such an all-embrasive and visually arresting work.
The Warhol Museum is a story in itself. After great, extended efforts by various individuals and institutions, it finally opened in 1994, logically located in Pittsburgh, PA., where Warhol was born. It preserves Warhol’s art and keeps his memory alive. Warhol died unexpectedly at the age of 58 in 1987.
Warhol’s art work remains better known and monetarily valuable. But although Warhol’s films have been secondary, they constitute important evidence of how he saw the world. “The Chelsea Girls” in particular reflects the essence of what Warhol brought to the screen in style and content—lengthy looks at subjects he chose with efforts to be different, such as using split screen technique and challenging viewers to go along with unusually slow pacing in quest of fly-on-the-wall intimacy. There is validity in the choice of this film to illustrate what Warhol was exploring.
“Andy Warhol’s The Chelsea Girls” arrives as an important addition to film history. Posted June 5, 2018.