Warhol’s Work

December 19, 2012

Watching the movie Capote (2005) yesterday, and it was pretty good, I got to thinking of Warhol.  Turns out he was fascinated by Capote and his portrait on the back of his first book.  Seems a lot of people were taken by the photo, and it became as much, or more of a cause célèbre than the book itself.  Warhol wrote fan letters to Capote and called his first gallery show Fifteen Drawings Based on the Writings of Truman Capote.  

Yes, I think the visual influences are clear.


There’s a scene in the movie when Capote is talking to the New Yorker editor, William Shawn, after his successful preview reading from In Cold Blood:  he asks breathlessly, “Should we do more readings?”  Shawn replies that they should not; they will let people talk about the book, build interest.  “Let them do the work.

Well, nobody could accuse Capote of not doing his work.  As one character in the film remarks, “You’re nothing if not hard-working.”  But then there’s Warhol…

I think Warhol realized that popular culture in the early 1960s was ready to step lightly over the homosexual bar, and Capote’s unabashedly affected and effeminate manner were probably an inspiration to him.  His great insight was that if he just played himself straight, people would not know how to accept – process – his personality, and would assume he was ironical, sophisticated, in other words, an artist.  Then he could do the things he most wanted to do: get rich; hobnob with the rich and famous; be famous; and play with pictures other people made, while others did his publicity and produced critical laurels and justifications for him. He was dead on, and his blockbuster success was the proof.  The only irony was that he assumed others would assume he was an ironist, and he was happy to let them.

There’s really not  much to Warhol’s work, unless you enjoy his colors and designs, at least, not much that isn’t created and put there by others.  But that never mattered to him.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s – II

August 10, 2010

The unnamed narrator of Breakfast at Tiffany’s begins his story by telling how he heard of Holly Golightly several years after she skipped town.  He meets a mutual friend who has heard from Holly’s old landlord Mr. Yunioshi [played in a stunningly unfunny bit by Mickey Rooney in the film.]  Mr. Y. was on a photo-safari in Africa, and he happened upon a man who had a carving that looked just like Holly.  The likeness is so strong, that the narrator agrees it must be she after he sees the photos.  And the story behind it?

… a party of three white persons had appeared out of the brush riding horseback.  A young woman and two men.  The men, both red-eyed with fever, were forced for several weeks to stay shut and shivering in an isolated hut, while the young woman, having presently taken a fancy to the wood-carver, shared the wood-carver’s mat.

That alone is enough to indicate that that we are in a different universe from the Hollywood adaptation of Capote’s novella.  At the end, when she abandons her no-name cat…

…she stamped her foot:  “I said beat it!”  He rubbed against her leg.  “I said fuck off!” she shouted…

Well, it’s an adaptation, and movies aren’t books.  We have to expect the censorship, and some fiddling with the story, but still, it indicates that we are getting two totally different stories and characterizations of Holly.  So, forget about the sappy film.  What of the book?

Holly is sad, depressing, and a lot more brash and sexy than Hepburn, lovely as she is.  She loves her no-name cat and the no-name narrator, and she loves her brother Fred, though she knows he is really stupid, because only he would let her hug him when they slept in the same bed those long, impoverished years ago.  She’ll never get him back, or the love for him.  Everything lost, everything wasted.  She tries to become something else, like a good American, but she cannot.  She’s a whore…sort of, and makes no bones about it.  She gets pregnant by her Brazilian boyfriend.  She doesn’t charm you – she’s actually kind of repellant, except that she is so obviously a damaged person, really, truly damaged by poverty and abuse.  She’s only twenty in the story.  She must be pretty – men all go for her.  Even the narrator, who very likely is gay, though that’s just a guess, falls for her.  But he isn’t romantic about her.

They never go to Tiffany’s together.

The story is sad, depressing, and rather powerful.  From the point of view of a anonymous appreciator, we watch Holly pursue a flightpath that miraculously avoids crashing and burning, but we doubt it can go on much longer or bring her any comfort.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s – I

August 6, 2010

In my initial dip into Capoteville, inspired by my reading of To Kill a Mockingbird, I watched the 1961 film, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, adapted  from Truman Capote’s story of the same name.  I have heard of this movie for so long as the epitome of Hollywood romance and chic that I wanted to finally see for myself.  Well, I am just a crank, I can’t help it, but I thought it was pretty awful.

The film is supposed to be a romantic comedy – I think I laughed once at a bit by a minor character.  The humor seemed dated, dull, sexist, not to mention Mickey Rooney’s racist turn, for which all concerned have since expressed deep regret.  There is a party scene in Holly’s apartment that seems like the fantasy of an uptight dullard who just watched Fellini’s La Dolce Vita.  Audrey Hepburn is lovely, of course, and Peppard is a good looking hunk of a guy, but you haven’t a clue why a jaded – he’s being kept by a rich woman – intelligent fellow like him would go all mushy for a pretty slip of a girl who is obviously suffering from a deep psychological mauling.  It’s all just froth and candy icing, amazing clothes draped across Hepburn’s boney and elegant frame, and dialog so superficial it can make your head ache. 

I read that Capote hated the film and felt double-crossed by the studios.  He wanted Marilyn Monre in the lead, playing it as voluptous, sexy, not too bright, and vulnerable.  That would have made for a  darker, more interesting story.  Soon I’ll read his novella and find out just how much of working over Hollywood gave the original.

The image shows the two protagonists at the high point of their romancing-cute: they just shoplifted two masks from a five and dime store to prove to themselves how carefree and unconventional they are.