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Screening Room

Sadness and Humor From Warhol

Screenings in UCLA's series include 'Kitchen,' an early collaboration, and 'I, a Man.'

August 09, 2001|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The UCLA Film Archive's "From the Factory: Andy Warhol's Films" continues Friday at 7:30 p.m. with "Kitchen" (1965) and "I, a Man" (1967).

The first is another of Warhol's early collaborations with Theater of the Ridiculous playwright Ronal Tavel, a 66-minute send-up of kitchen-sink realism. Edie Sedgwick plays a beautiful but self-absorbed young wife who's brought her makeup kit into the kitchen, where she wrangles with her anguished husband (Roger Trudeau) while working on her face. A number of their exchanges are amusingly drowned by the intermittent roar of a blender, turned on by their incredibly busy houseboy. The plot thickens with the arrival of unannounced visitors and, throughout, a relentless set photographer snaps away, adding to the film's quality of humorous travesty.

"I, a Man" answers rather than emulates the then-notorious Swedish sexploitation picture, "I, a Woman." In the series of eight sexual encounters that Warhol's handsome, likable, self-knowing hero (Tom Baker) experiences during the film's 110 minutes, only the concluding episode's phlegmatic and earthy woman seems worthy of him.

There is a pervasive sadness in the picture, which is typical of Warhol, with bursts of corrosive humor. There is more nudity in this film than in "I, a Woman," but Warhol treats it casually and discreetly; the Swedish film is a fantasy that Warhol replies to with a sense of realism. The influence of Paul Morrissey, who began assisting Warhol with "Chelsea Girls" and eventually took over directing Warhol's films, was beginning to be felt: "I, a Man" reveals a growing concern for structure and technique.

Screening Saturday at 7:30 p.m. are "Screen Test #2" (1965) and "The Loves of Ondine" (1967). Based on an idea from Ronald Tavel, the first is a put-on in which drag performer Mario Montez, already an underground cinema legend for appearances in Jack Smith's "Flaming Creatures" and "Normal Love," is ostensibly being auditioned (by an off-screen Tavel) for the role of Esmeralda in a new Hollywood production of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." The interview evolves into an exercise in humiliation for Montez, who transcends it through dignity, resilience and skill.

"The Loves of Ondine" (1967-68) is a rambling 85-minute mishmash notable only for its introduction of two Warhol icons, Viva and Joe D'Allesandro. Bob Olivio had appeared in "Chelsea Girls" throwing an unscripted temper when a young woman dared to suggest he might be a phony. In this meandering work, cobbled together from some other Warhol ventures, Olivio's bitchy Ondine is similarly volatile as he talks about trying to go straight with several women; only the beautiful, vibrant Viva parries successfully with Ondine, who is far more responsive to D'Allesandro, who nonchalantly strips to his Jockey shorts to show him some wrestling moves only to be interrupted by Brigid Polk as Ondine's indignant wife.

"Ondine" shows the usually sullen and monosyllabic D'Allesandro as smiling and talkative, a handsome teenager basking innocently in the effect of his physical beauty upon others. The film also contains lengthy, tedious coverage of a party that begins with a playful, messy food fight and segues to people lolling about. No wonder "The Loves of Ondine" was a critical and commercial flop when it was released. All screenings are in Melnitz Hall's James Bridges Theater. (310) 206-FILM.

*

Among the films in LACMA's "The Minister of Fear: Fritz Lang in America" is "Hangmen Also Die" (1943), screening Friday following the 7:30 p.m. presentation of the delightful, offbeat "You and Me" (1938), one the director's most light-hearted films. "You and Me," a romance with some Kurt Weill songs, stars George Raft and Sylvia Sidney as a pair of ex-cons who fall in love, neither knowing the other's past.

"Hangmen Also Die" is most notable for Lang's collaboration with Bertolt Brecht--a key inspiration for "You and Me"--in this story of a Prague professor's family confronted with the brutality and oppression of the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. The film opens with the professor's family unexpectedly giving shelter to the man (Brian Donlevy) who assassinated Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich in 1942. The film is intended to salute and support the Czech resistance to the Nazis and raises the thorny question of whether Donlevy should come forward and identify himself as the killer and thus spare hundreds of Czech lives demanded by the Nazis by way of reprisal.

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