The Andy Warhol Diaries: the exhaustive and quite hypnotic documentary series from Netflix
Andy Warhol’s Diaries
Two years after Andy Warhol’s death in 1987, a long volume entitled Andy Warhol’s Diaries was released and immediately delineated bestseller charts throughout the western world. Warhol, of course, would have been awfully pleased.
The diaries were edited transcriptions of near-daily telephone calls Warhol made to his assistant and friend Pat Hackett.
Warhol would ramble and explain everything he thought and had happened the previous day and night – and Hackett duly pieced together something readable from his words.
As a starting point for a documentary series, the diaries are singularly unpromising. They are long, unstructured, relentlessly solipsistic, and most of the people mentioned in them are now deceased.
But, not one to resist a challenge or a catchy title, filmmaker Andrew Rossi (Front page: in the New York Times) has put together an exhaustive, but also quite hypnotic, six-part dig into the Warhol the newspapers have revealed – or hinted at – and a surely definitive biography.
I’m only two episodes away – and I can take a break for a few weeks before watching a few more – but Andy Warhol’s Diaries is really impressive work. Without narration, nor even many contemporary interviews, but with a skillful writing hand, Rossi paints a subjective but deceptively rigorous portrait of Warhol, his universe and his contemporaries. Everyone you could hope for – Basquiat, Bowie, Debbie Harry, etc. – are here. But so do many lesser and more peripheral personalities, some of whom have far more insight than the inner circle.
If you’re interested in the era, the art, or just how to make a real documentary and not a rehearsal, Andy Warhol’s Diaries is wonderful.
* Netflix’s Bridgerton, TVNZ’s Halo, Disney’s The Dropout among March must-haves
* In the Cut: Jane Campion’s most controversial film is now streaming on Netflix
* The Velvet Underground: Apple’s rare doco in perfect harmony with the subject
* Alice Cooper found $16 million Andy Warhol artwork ‘rolled up in a tube’
Season 4 of Formula 1: Drive to Survive is now available to stream on Netflix.
Formula 1: drive to survive
Season four of this smash hit from Netflix was always going to be highly anticipated. Even people who find the idea of multimillion-dollar cars going around in circles very quickly essentially useless, weren’t unaware that the 2021 F1 season was a bit of a ripper – and ended on a scandal that has transcended the usual chains and has become a real news story.
So to see how Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and their respective teammates and employers got themselves into such a mess – that the last lap of the last race would turn out to be the defining moment of the season – and the result would still be controversial. months later – was surely sufficient to guarantee this Drive to survive some of Netflix’s best non-fiction ratings.
And fair enough too. The show is ruthlessly well put together, with a finesse in editing and graphics that only a multi-million budget can provide. The selection of talking heads is also impressive, with Red Bull’s Christian Horner seeming particularly keen to appear on camera to say whatever is going through his caped head at any given time.
His counterpart at Mercedes, the wonderfully nicknamed Toto Wolff, is a bit more reluctant, but is a welcome counterweight to Horner’s yapping right.
So, I’m a fan, since I’m at least a closet fanatic – and a real fan of Lewis Hamilton, who I also hope will one day be the subject of a real documentary.
Because, popular though Drive to survive maybe, let’s not pretend for a minute that the show is a documentary series. The on-track events may be real, but the reactions and apparent behind-the-scenes drama are surely marred by storyboarding and editorial sleight of hand. The interludes between Horner and his wife Geri are almost painful to watch, as are the dinners between the drivers and their partners and families. Similarly, feuds between pilots may be based in reality, but they also often seem to be built into the editing suite, not real life.
Drive to survive occupies a gray area between reality TV and the actual documentary. It’s entertaining and “fact-based”, but I hope it doesn’t portend that documentary makers will bend and create their plots, if they want to find a global audience or backer.
In the Cut is now available to stream on Netflix.
In the cut
Although she made an absolute ass of herself with her speech at the Critics’ Choice Awards for power of the dog this week and most likely costing itself an Oscar, I’m still going to recommend this Jane Campion movie.
This 2003 thriller stars Meg Ryan – the world’s most underrated actor – as a writer and teacher, living on New York’s Lower East Side – and Mark Ruffalo as a homicidal cop who walks into his orbit when a woman is found “disarticulated” near Ryan’s apartment block.
A nervous and ill-defined sexual relationship comes to life, full of misunderstood compulsions and near-death impulses, as Ryan begins to realize that Ruffalo might just be the killer, as well as the cop, but his need for and the thrill of controlling and directing that person far outweighs any real, life-threatening danger.
In the cut is a movie that doesn’t always get to, or even signal where it’s heading. But it’s a provocative and captivating thrashing at this scariest form, from a woman who understands exactly what the men who invented the genre told her to believe.