Minister of Science and Chief Protector of the Faith

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Edie Sedgwick's Downward Spiral Revisited in the Film "Factory Girl"

Edie Sedgewick

I have never really been a big fan of Andy Warhol. I always thought that he was kind of a lame one-joke wonder. Calling a painting of a Campbell's soup can "art" is funny the first time around, but it gets tired pretty quick. I never really learned much about the man until a friend of mine insisted I read the book "Edie" by Jean Stein and George Plimpton. It was a fairly thick hardback, so I was surprised at how quickly I finished it.

It turned out to be one of those books that you can't stop reading. It was fascinating, not only the story but the way that the book was laid out. I learned more about Edie Sedgwick and Andy Warhol than I ever thought that I would want to know.

By the end of the book, you wish there could be some sort of happy ending. It's a very sad and lonely book. There are no uplifting moments or philosophical events that strengthen or embolden the character. It is like watching the Titanic slowly sink into the sunset. There is nothing that can be done about it.

It is a story of a poor little rich girl who got lost in the seedy wonderland of Andy Warhol's Factory in the 60's. The book is about Edie's rise to fame and subsequent downfall into obscurity. I find the story of Edie Sedgwick far more interesting than any of the hype about Andy Warhol.

So many books are about men succeeding against all odds against a seemingly endless sea of troubles, or sometimes you even find books about a woman succeeding against all odds against a seemingly endless sea of troubles. This is a book about an endless sea of troubles and the woman who becomes entirely consumed by them.

Edie Sedgewick

I found the story so interesting that I even sat through a videotape of Sedgwick's semi-autobiographical film, "Ciao! Manhattan". The film is a cinematic train wreck, but it does capture the complete deterioration of Sedgwick’s life.

A recent film came out called, "Factory Girl" with Sienna Miller as Edie Sedgwick and Guy Pearce as Andy Warhol. I expected the film to be pretty awful, but was delightfully surprised at how well the film played out.

Part of Sedgwick's charm was her energetic personality and her million-dollar smile. I think that Miller captured that part of the role very well. I was surprised at how much she looked like Sedgwick, and acted in the same quirky fashion as Sedgwick throughout the film effortlessly. Guy Pearce does quite well as Andy Warhol, but I don't think that it is a very difficult role to play. David Bowie played Warhol in a 1996 film "Basquiat" and said that the wig was 50% of the role.

The film might seem disjointed to someone that is unfamiliar with the story, but I really enjoyed watching it. That said, let me warn you, Rotten Tomatoes gave it an average rating of 4.8/10, saying "Superficial "Factory Girl" fails to tell a coherent story." I would have to agree, it did fail to tell a coherent story, but if you have read Stein's book "Edie", you would know that there never really was a coherent story to tell in the first place. It's not a story with a clear beginning, middle and end. It is just the story of a young girl whose life went impossibly sour.

I think that if you watch the film, there is probably a good chance that will actually dislike the film. I fear that you may only enjoy the film if you already know and have an interest in the story.

Edie Sedgewick

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At Tue Aug 21, 03:53:00 PM, Anonymous mwb said...

So I now know one other person who's read that book and enjoyed it.

It is an interesting look into a dysfunctional group isn't it?

At Tue Aug 21, 05:51:00 PM, Blogger FranIAm said...

Wow what a post. Loved it.

Being a former denizen of some unsavory NY nightspots, I have a certain appreciation of that whole scene. Now mind you I was not there at the right time, although I am about age appropriate for having been so(50 soon) and I was never in exactly the right place, but...

I saw Andy two times in my life and you have just inspired me to write a post about one of them.

Briefly- one was crossing 57th and Madison in 1979 and the other was in SoHo in 1986. He seemed a caricature of himself both times in many ways. The hair. The glasses.

I never saw Edie to my knowledge but I wish I had!

Now I want to read those books.

Once I was in Vegas on a business trip. I think Steve Wynn still owned the Bellagio and the concept of a museum in a casino was really odd.

There was a small but mighty Warhol exhibit. The remarkable thing was the narration on the audio-phone-guide-thingy... It was done by Liza Minelli, who was part of another element of Warhol's life. And a piece of living pop art herself.

It was great. Especially when she narrated the 4 part painting of herself!

There was a Wahrol

At Tue Aug 21, 08:14:00 PM, Blogger FranIAm said...

Come on over to my place and see what you have inspired.

At Tue Aug 21, 08:38:00 PM, Blogger Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

I have a passing interest in Warhol's work and I do want to see this movie.

One of the most memorable works of Warhol to me was his Frankenstein movie which features the immortal line "To understand life, Otto, you must f*** death in the gall bladder." Good stuff.

At Tue Aug 21, 11:52:00 PM, Blogger Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

I was going to avoid this movie because I dug that book so much but now you've convinced me to see it.

The thing about Warhol I love is that he elevated the ordinary into art.

At Wed Aug 22, 01:13:00 AM, Blogger GETkristiLOVE said...

I saw Basquiat and really enjoyed it. I get what Bowie was saying about the wig, but I thought he rocked the part. Might not be a stretch for him, but still.

At Wed Aug 22, 07:09:00 AM, Blogger Dr. Zaius said...

MWB: That's great that you have read the book, too! I think that the book could have been very boring if written poorly. Jean Stein supposedly did the lion's share of the work, but Plmpton added some insight as well. The best part of the book is how they presented it. Most of the words of those they interviewed were left unchanged and seemingly unedited. The compiled the words in such away to best make some sort of narrative without letting the author's words step on the story. I think Jean Stein did a fantastic job on that book.

FranIAm: I love the post that you wrote. If anybody is interested, FranIAm has written a great story over at her blog! I really enjoyed your story, it was a wonderful glimpse into your life.

"There was a small but mighty Warhol exhibit. The remarkable thing was the narration on the audio-phone-guide-thingy... It was done by Liza Minelli, who was part of another element of Warhol's life. And a piece of living pop art herself. It was great. Especially when she narrated the 4 part painting of herself!"

Ack! Life imitates art imitates life imitates art imitates formerly life-like actress!

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator: You know, I have seen that movie! There was a theater in Berkeley that used to play films at midnight like "Eraserhead" and "The Harder They Come." (And of course, the also played "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" every weekend.)

We used to go to that theater all of the time when I was a kid. I saw "Andy Warhol's Frankenstein" there. The version that we saw was in 3-D, but they did not hand out any 3-D glasses, so the picture was incredibly annoying. Everything was in double images. One of the girls we went with swore she could see the 3-D effect without the glasses! Of course, she couldn't. We had not taken nearly enough drugs for that to happen.

Dr. Monkerstein: How cool! You've read the book, too! Of course, you are right about "Warhol elevating the ordinary into art". The artistic establishment needed a proper goosing at the time, and Warhol gave it them. I'm still a Salvador Dali/M. C. Escher kind of guy, though.

GETkristiLOVE: I saw "Basquiat" in pieces. I always seemed to find it while changing channels. I thought that Bowie was great in the role of Warhol! I wanted to see more of Bowie in that film. He is underrated as actor. He has done some great stuff, even in very minor roles.

At Thu Aug 23, 02:06:00 PM, Blogger dguzman said...

I LOVED that book. I read it in 11th grade, and my mom found it by my bed and FREAKED. Had to buy another copy to finish it.

At Sat Aug 25, 02:35:00 PM, Blogger Dr. Zaius said...

Ha! I'll bet your Mom read it when you weren't looking!

At Fri Aug 01, 08:41:00 PM, Blogger shannon said...

um hello i just wanted to say that ah i have only seen the movie, and i loved it. Its actually the reason i decided to do a search on Andy warhol and Edie Sedgewick. your blog has inspired me to go find and read the book Edie. in some of these web sites i have found that the make Warhol look like this amazing person, who was loving and caring. an a absolute genius. But in this movie Edie gives him so much of her and warhol leads her into this life of parties and drugs and then he just abandons her.

i was wondering if you had read the book Popism and if you have what did you think of it?


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