Monday, August 20, 2007

the New BFI centre: Warhols screen tests

Yesterday afternoon I finally managed to touchdown with the extensive Warhol retrospective at the old National Film Theatre, now the BFI centre. I hadn't been there since it opened its new spaces after refurbishment and extension and I had some time to kill so it was cool to see and explore:

- a video installation in their new exhibition space by Lynette Walworth where you enter a dark room and hold a glass plate underneath a stream of images that you can apparently manipulate

- the "Studio" where you can watch stuff from the archives for free, in this case an old documentary about Delhi

- and the Mediateque where you can check yourself into a space with a screen and headphones and choose want you want to watch from their extensive archives, in my case some old homemovies from the punk days in the Kings Road, the start of a documentary about homosexuality just before it was legalised, and the start of the very interesting movie "Nighthawks" about a gay schoolteacher who leads a double life cruising the bars at night, which seemed very realistic in tone and which i want to watch in full sometimes. I'm pretty sure I spotted the young Derek Jarman hanging out behind the main character in one of the club scenes. It's free so a good way to kill an hour or two on the South Bank.

So I was impressed with the new centre, which also included a new book and dvd shop and another cafe/restaurant, and, just as always, want to spend more time there watching good movies presented in this dedicated environment.

The Warhol programme I saw was a series of "screen tests" where various people (mainly Factory characters, and/or NYC artists/celebs) had to sit still in front of Andys camera for three minutes, some not always succeeding, some barely blinking. My first reaction was, jeezuz, 80 minutes of this, but it soon became weirdly fascinating and almost like meditation as the trancelike concentrated energy took over. It helped that most of the people *did* look interesting, the lighting was quite dramatic in some, and you can't help thinking that these were snapped straight out of this fascinating boho scene, and a lot of them are probably dead by now, and they seemed so alive, even sitting still, there was a very curious intensity emanating from the screen. I've always been fascinated by Warhols movies, and have previously only seen a few, and probably the more famous ones (My Hustler (I love that one!), Chelsea Girls, etc), so I'll check out a few more, I'm hooked again...

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