Friday, 6 August 2010

I'm Gonna Ride In A Circle.

I'm not sure how to go about writing about Andy Warhol's Lonesome Cowboys. I mean, do we treat it as art or artistic film? I mean, film is art, right? So are they not the same thing? But when looking at something by, say, Warhol, acting within the filmic sphere, should we be looking at it with different eyes, examining it from the traditional art-on-walls angle? Or should it be treated in exactly the same way as any other film? But what of installation film work? And who is to say that there is, again, any true difference between that which is displayed in an art gallery and that which is displayed in cinema? Perhaps one is meant for greater mass consumption, but can the same not be said within any artform?

I first say Lonesome Cowboys many years ago, underneath a cafe in Sydney. People kind of came and went (it wouldn't surprise me if I did the same), treating it more as an art installation. It didn't help that the third reel was six seconds out of synch - I timed it. My primary memories are of a fairly instant infatuation with Joe Dallesandro and that hot hot shower scene with Tom Hompertz.

This time, however, I noticed not a lot more.

Ok, that's not fair. I quite like the film in the sense of it as an installation, as a piece of art as opposed to a cohesive piece of narrative entertainment. There is just far too much liberty taken with the generally accepted notion of structure and exposition for it to truly be considered in the same sense that one may consider any of the other almost-200 films you can find on here. 

Isn't. He. Pretty.

Sure, there are parallels to Romeo and Juliet, but they're very broad-sweeping. The characters are for the most part either caricatures or barely there. It is more like Warhol and uncredited co-director (and writer) Paul Morrissey called up a bunch of pretty boys and said 'hey, come have a party in the desert with us and a bunch of other pretty boys and a whole heap of drugs, and we've got a camera and every now and then we might ask you to look in a certain direction and say something but it's all a bit of fun, right, here have a line.'

While that sounds like the biggest pile of dog turd the world may ever have seen, it functions very well within the artistic environment it drew from. Or almost as an examination of it in itself. It's almost more of an historical documentary, perhaps. Warhol and Morrissey appear in the film courtesy of directions and instructions given from off camera, and for much of the film the actors (for want of a better word)(ok, performers, I found a better word) seem either totally at ease or entirely bemused by everything that is going on around them. Only Dallesandro seems to be putting at least part of his back into it, and (may Joe forgive me) I think that detracts from the overall experience. Perhaps his desire to be a real actor or something saw him take this a lot more seriously than anyone else involved with the film, and that provides the film with its biggest weakness - someone who cares.

Overall, it's a terrific film to have on whilst you're doing something else. Cooking dinner, chatting with friends, staging a coup, participating in a drug-fuelled orgy - whatever. Treat is as you would installation art. And damn it, make sure you don't miss that shower scene. 5 stars. (As art, not as a film. As a film, 1.5 stars.)

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