Writer’s note: I wrote this review as an extra credit assignment for an art appreciation class, hence why the format is different. The topics I focused on were the portrayal of the artists in the film as well as the relationships between the artists and their creations.
The film I chose for this paper is the 1996 biopic I Shot Andy Warhol. I Shot Andy Warhol was directed by Mary Harron, who also directed the 2000 thriller American Psycho and the 2005 drama The Notorious Betty Page. Additionally, the film was co-written by Daniel Minahan, who directed several episodes of the TV series Game of Thrones and Grey’s Anatomy. After viewing Harron’s film I Shot Andy Warhol, I understand the background of the events that led to the assassination attempt on Warhol’s life and the relationship between Warhol and his would-be killer. The film made me realize that the world of art still has a dark side to it, one filled with misjudgments and resulting tragedy.
I Shot Andy Warhol mainly follows the life of Valerie Solanas, who, true to the title of the movie, shot Andy Warhol. After being detained by police officers following her attempted murder of Warhol, the film takes a look into Solana’s life leading up to the shooting. After graduating from college, Solanas moves to New York, where she prostitutes herself and begs on the streets for money while working on her writings. Eventually, Solanas’s writings converge into a pamphlet known as the SCUM Manifesto (short for the Society for Cutting Up Men), which she wishes to publish. After a chance meeting with Maurice Girodias, a publisher of erotic books, Solanas considers the opportunity to write for his company.
In addition to the SCUM Manifesto, Solanas also writes a play entitled Up Your Ass, hoping to have the play produced by Andy Warhol. However, while Solanas manages to meet Warhol in person, he seems indifferent to the idea of producing Solanas’s play. Frustrations escalate further after Solanas signs a deal with Girodias, later believing that he plans to control her writings completely and give her no free reign. After being humiliated on a television broadcast, Solanas begins to believe that Warhol and Girodias are conspiring against her and later, after obtaining a gun, Solanas shoots Warhol who is working in an office. The film ends with an epilogue showing what happened to many of the characters in the film following Solanas’s assassination attempt on Warhol.
I Shot Andy Warhol portrays both Warhol and Solanas in their own eccentric ways. While I did not know much about Warhol as a person, the film shows him to be a quiet artist who is almost always surrounded by lively, flamboyant people. This image of Warhol as such a colorful artist seems to fulfill the image of many creative artists today. Solanas is also portrayed in an almost sympathetic fashion over the course of the film, showing her aspiration to have her works publicized and having her play produced through Warhol, only for her to break psychologically and attempt to kill a brilliant artist. Rather than purely painting Solanas as an antagonistic character based on her attempted murder and extreme feminist ideas, I Shot Andy Warhol instead explores Solanas’s motivations for her actions.
Additionally, I Shot Andy Warhol explores the relationships between artists and their works. Solanas is extremely dedicated to her views on female superiority, and the film depicts her as a hard-worker in getting her Manfesto published and publicized, to the degree that she was willing to hand out copies to random strangers on the street, as well as repeatedly visiting Warhol to convince him that her play was worth publishing. Warhol also has an interesting relationship with his work that the film establishes, despite not having as much focus in the film. Warhol takes inspiration from his friends who work in his studio, often integrating them into his works, such as the short film he creates. Additionally, the eccentric and laid back environment of Warhol’s studio, particularly during the party sequence in the film, seems to add more to Warhol’s relationship with his work, which is of a creative, inspired connection.
I Shot Andy Warhol takes a look at a tragic event and examines it from a different perspective to give the audience a glimpse into the mind of the culprit. All the while, the film also portrays Andy Warhol and Valerie Solanas in both popularized and atypical manners, while also exploring Warhol and Solanas’s relationships to their works. As such, I Shot Andy Warhol is a movie I would recommend to those learning about art, not only for its portrayal of an appalling event in the life of an artist, but also for its introspective look into the relationship that led to said event.