13 Most Beautiful ... Songs for Andy Warhol's Screen Tests

(Plexifilm) 2009, Not Rated

Jun 3, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Andy Warhol’s “screen tests” — in which he used a stationary 16mm Bolex camera to shoot silent, black-and-white 100-foot rolls of film studying guests to his Factory between 1964-1966 — are among his most mesmerizing and beautiful (and painterly) work. They have been too rarely seen. Plexifilm has partnered with Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum for this first-ever official DVD release of 13 of the choicest screen tests, paired with a newly commissioned soundtrack by Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips. Wareham, who was in the Velvet Underground-inspired bands Galaxie 500 and Luna, is a perfect choice — he favors the dark guitar rumblings and forlorn vocals of the Velvets, who Warhol sponsored during this same period. On the screen test featuring Velvet leader Lou Reed, wearing shades and holding a Coca Cola bottle as he moves his head ever so coolly, Dean and Britta even perform a Velvet song. The first of the screen tests is a powerfully hypnotic and intense work, rivaling in its effect the close-ups of Renee Maria Falconetti in Dreyer’s silent classic, The Passion of Joan of Arc. A young woman named Ann Buchanan, part of California’s Beat poetry scene, stares at the camera without blinking, slowly letting a tear trickle down. Elsewhere, the handsome Paul America — half his face shrouded in darkness — smilingly moves from side to side with a mixture of amusement and erotic insolence. A new song, “Teenage Lightning (and Lonely Highways),” conveys his effect. For the goddess-like Nico, looking simultaneously dreamy and impatient with her hand to her face, Dean and Britta perform a lovely version of “I’ll Keep It With Mine,” which Dylan wrote for Nico. The package also includes a booklet and a documentary on the making of the sound track. This is great Warhol art … with good music. Grade: A