Superstar: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol (1990)

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Released 28-Oct-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1990
Running Time 85:14 (Case: 87)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Chuck Workman
Studio
Distributor
Aries Films
Warner Vision
Starring Andy Warhol
David Bowie
Lou Reed
Shelley Winters
Roy Lichtenstein
David Hockney
Dennis Hopper
Edie Sedgwick
Viva
Holly Woodlawn
Case ?
RPI $34.95 Music Various


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Superstar: The Life And Times Of Andy Warhol is a fairly detailed retrospective of this 1960s pop-culture guru. I first became aware of him through his association with some of my favourite bands - in particular The Velvet Underground. To paraphrase the words of Troy McClure, you may remember his work from such paintings as Campbell's Soup or larger than life posters of Elvis Presley in cowboy mode. Alternatively you may recognise him as the man who is credited with coining the word "superstar", or the famous quote "in the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes".

    There is no doubt that Warhol was a real renaissance man. His resume is utterly impressive and you are left with the overwhelming feeling that he certainly made the most of his time on this mortal coil. Beginning his life in a rundown Polish/Slovak neighbourhood in Pittsburgh, he was born Andrew Warhola - and it is quite strange to see and hear his very traditional relatives recounting tales of his early life, which form a stark contrast to the wild lifestyle he enjoyed later in New York. He began his career as a commercial artist, and his paintings and silk screens of American icons (Campbell's Soup, Coca-Cola bottles and Marilyn Monroe) reflect the influence that contemporary American culture had on his work.

    He moved on from drawing and painting, through photography and into film. His films are decidedly a matter of taste - Sleep featured a close-up of a sleeping man and ran for six and a half hours! The Chelsea Girls was a slightly more traditional film about the stoned residents of the Chelsea Hotel - but was shown by playing two different reels of film at the same time and running for over three and a half hours. Some of his other works included Blue Movie, Nude Restaurant, Tub Girls, Eight Girls On A Bed...and BAD. Warhol surrounded himself with heavy drug users, musicians and transvestites. It is intriguing to hear interviews with several of the cross-dressers made famous in Lou Reed's Walk on the Wild Side - Little Joe, Holly and Candy all make an appearance. When filmmaking lost its lustre, he promptly created a successful cultural magazine called Interview - which ran for over a decade. Warhol fostered an aloof and other-worldly persona with the media, pretending to disdain it, whilst in reality revelling in all the attention and milking his celebrity contacts to the hilt. His constant air of disinterest and his monosyllabic responses to interviewers' questions only added to their insatiable quest to discover the true meaning behind his work. You are certainly left with the feeling that the man was not just a major artistic talent, but a very clever marketer and a master of self-promotion.

    This documentary recounts his life through the anecdotes of contemporaries, art dealers, Factory members and brief contributions from several stars such as Shelley Winters, Lou Reed, Dennis Hopper and Roy Lichtenstein. Warhol himself features very little, and when he does it is with his characteristic indifference and detachment. Having said that, I was amazed to see that the super-cool Warhol appeared on an episode of The Love Boat! The documentary is touted on the DVD cover as being "fascinating" (Roger Ebert) - which I found to be somewhat of an overstatement. Whilst it is centred on Warhol, as the title suggests, it provides an interesting peek into a debauched but adventurous period of the bohemian side of 1960s New York. Worth a rental for anyone with a particular interest in Warhol, but unless you are already a fan of the man's work, or an art/pop-culture historian, it is likely to be of limited value as casual entertainment.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality of this transfer is fairly mediocre, but this is perhaps unsurprising given the disparate source materials and the age of the piece itself (it was made in 1990).

    The video is presented non 16x9 enhanced at 1.33:1 which is almost certainly the original aspect ratio. The transfer is grainy and soft throughout - the extent of the grain varying with the source of the material.

    Black levels and shadow detail vary depending on the source material. Overall they are adequate for a documentary piece, but by no means of a reference standard. Colours show their age, tending to look rather jaded throughout.

    I noticed no major MPEG compression artefacts in the transfer. Edge enhancement was never readily apparent and aliasing was not an issue on my system. Telecine wobble is evident throughout the film, although is usually only mildly distracting. Hand-held camerawork for much of the Factory footage adds to the unsteady feel of the transfer.

    Film artefacts are commonplace and do become a distraction at times. Positive and negative artefacts vie for space with numerous scratches and blotches throughout. These artefacts are supplemented by Warhol's own footage with its high levels of intentional grain and more (deliberate) scratches than you can shake a stick at.

    There are no subtitles present.

    This disc is single sided and single layered (DVD 5) so there is no layer change present.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The overall audio transfer is pretty patchy.

    The sole audio track is presented in English Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 224 kbps, and it is adequate for a documentary but is not without its flaws. There are numerous examples of hiss present from time to time, with distortion of the dialogue and music a frequent occurrence. These are likely to be inherent to the source material however, and are not a fault of the transfer to DVD. I noted no major issues with audio sync.

    The music is provided by a variety of pop music songs. They are rather diverse including numbers from the Sixties through to the Eighties, with Unbelievable (Kate Bush), Heart Of Glass (Blondie) and Money (Pink Floyd) adding some aural interest to what would otherwise simply be a talking head piece.

    The front speakers present the dialogue as cleanly as the source footage allows, and despite the occasional distortion and hiss it is always possible to make out what is being said. The surround speakers and subwoofer are unused. The use of Pro Logic II will redirect some noise to the surrounds (mainly from the musical numbers), but it is largely irrelevant considering the documentary nature of the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are no extras present.

Menu

    The menu is a silent photograph of the DVD cover art. It allows the meagre options of playing the film or selecting one of nine chapter stops.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 release of this film appears to in a similar format to the Region 4 release, however it does include some extra features.

    The Region 4 version misses out on:

     The Region 1 release would appear to be the version of choice.

Summary

    Superstar: The Life And Times Of Andy Warhol is a fairly interesting documentary which will hold some appeal for fans of Warhol, or those with a strong interest in the pop culture of the 1960s. For casual entertainment, this documentary will leave most people unmoved, and possibly even bored.

    The video quality is mediocre.

    The audio transfer is mediocre.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel O'Donoghue (You think my bio is funny? Funny how?)
Tuesday, March 02, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDHarmony DVD Video/Audio PAL Progressive, using Component output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer

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