Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Leave her to heaven.

The world is never weary of Marilyn Monroe. The first time I saw her was in Niagara, the 1953 noir flick. She was the faithless wife planning to murder her husband, the hapless Joseph Cotton. Jean Peters, the better half of a fellow honeymooning couple unwittingly stumbled on her secret lover and got caught in the web. Marilyn was rivetting. Andy Warhol used the publicity shot from the same film as the basis for his famous Marilyn Diptych, Acrylic and silk screen ink on canvas,1962. The Tate Gallery caption to it reads inter alia: “Warhol found in Monroe a fusion of two of his consistent themes: death and the cult of celebrity. By repeating the image, he evokes her ubiquitous presence in the media. The contrast of vivid colour with black and white, and the effect of fading in the right panel are suggestive of the star’s mortality.” http://www.tate.org.uk/servlet/ViewWork?workid=15976. Very prophetic, what? (A diptych , by the way, is a painting in two panels. http://www.tate.org.uk/collections/glossary/definition.jsp?entryId=88.) There’s another possibility as well. Maybe, Warhol’s multiple-image, multiple-colour-combo metaphor is a pointer that, even in adulation, Marilyn is no more a person but merely a mass-consumption commodity. I wonder what Warhol, as “an expert in subverting notions of celebrity” (as the Publisher’s Weekly once famously tagged him) had he access to it, would have made of the telltale still from the verboten 16 mm Marilyn Monroe film shot in the 1950s and now consigned forever to a vault by a reverent MM devotee. Would he had blown it up and once again worked his assembly line, multiple exposure magic on it? Interestingly enough, Warhol shot in his Factory with a second-hand 16 mm Bolex camera films such as Chelsea Girls, Empire and Blow Job that have since become underground classics. http://www.warholprints.com/Bio.Andy.Warhol.html. "They're experimental films; I call them that because I don't know what I'm doing. I'm interested in audience reaction to my films: my films now will be experiments, in a certain way, on testing their reactions," is how Warhol described his work in 'Nothing to Lose', his interview by G Berg in the May1967 issue of Cahiers du Cinema in English. Sam Ishii-Gonzal├Ęs, a teacher of aesthetics and film history at New York University and the Film/Media Studies Program at Hunter College, puts a different interpretation on the most famous Warholism: "In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes." http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/cteq/01/14/blow_job.html. “…for Warhol, this "everyone" are the refuse of American society, and this refuse includes himself,” he argues. So, it is not just “a prophetic statement about the media celebrity accorded to serial killers, Monika Lewinsky, Amy Fisher, etc.” Did Warhol’s "everyone" include his already dead Marilyn(s), his close-to-dying Liz, his Brigitte Bardot (“BB” to her French fans) wrapped in the French tricolour and his Mao (“the ultimate star”) based on the portrait photograph in the Little Red Book?