Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Soap Opera (1964)

Soap Opera (The Lester Persky Story)
Director: Andy Warhol
USA 1964
47 min

There isn't very much imformation about this Warhol short. It is a silent (!) soap opera. cut into pieces by commercial segments (with sound). The technique is on purpose very simple and even really bad. White dots appear on the screen to and fro, the sound is scratchy, the picture is not always in focus and sometimes the grayscale is too dark or too bright. Very artistic, in a weird way. The Andy Warhol way.
All trivia I know about this little film is that it is the first film that Baby Jane Holzer did for Andy Warhol, and that the title "The Lester Persky Story" is taken from the producer Lester Persky, from whom Warhol used the 1950's commercials.

I don't know whether you're supposed to understand Andy Warhol's art or not, but I definitively don't. I like his work, though. And still, you can always have an idea of what this film tries to say. For example:
By mixing the soap opera with commercials, is Warhol trying to imitate television?
Does he try to say that they have the same meaning, that soap operas and commercials have as much content as the other?
And why is the soap opera silent, but the commercial isn't?
Is the dialogue that unimportant in a soap opera, that you simply can do without it?
Or does he want to say that baboons are aliens in disguise?

What ever the real intention was, Soap Opera is an entertaining and confusing experimental short film. It begins with a TV chef selling a home grill that you simply must own. And for only $ 4.95!

Two men, sitting next to each other. Smoking. The first man looks at the other man, then looks away. Right after that, the other man turns and takes a look on the first man. After a while, their eyes meet each other. They both look away.

Eight... seven... six... five... four... three...

... crazy woman! But her hair is just perfect, even after seven days of rain and storm! You only have to do your hair ones, and it will last soft and curly for seven days! (For some reason this commercial is shown twice.)

Baby Jane Holzer speaking on the phone.

Do you want to avoid stinking armpits? Use Secret and feel fresh and dry all day long!

Jerry Lewis, shooting a child in a commercial for his charity fund-raising for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).

A hairy man, lying in his bed, smoking and talking on the telephone. Perhaps with Baby Jane Holzer...?

From a headless man groping himself on the dancefloor, to an innocent child eating a very easily done birthday cake.

Baby Jane Holzer tries desperately to receive some love from her boyfriend, but he seems to be more interested in a newspaper article about Frank Sinatra. (He might also have gotten an appetite for the brunette he so violently made love with earlier. See the first photo.)

The Wondascope! A fantastic invention - A powerful microscope, a long distance telescope, binoculars and pharingoscope, all in one!
You can inspect the quality of diamonds and stamps! You can watch the stars and read the newspaper a little closer! And if you've got something in your eyes - just use the pharingoscope! You can easily carry it in your pocket, wherever you go!
And the best thing? This little thingy you just can't live without only costs $ 2.49!

Soap Opera ends with a naked girl dancing in front of a mirror. The quality of the film in this section is, obviously on purpose, very pale and grainy.
The last seconds of the film shows a very surprised and shocked man, witnessing the beautiful and exciting scene.


Jorge said...

that man is Gerard Malanga on the last pic ;)

Lolita said...

Haha, then who is that? He seems a bit shocked.

Mattson Tomlin said...

Interesting you should bring this up.

My Uncle, Sam Green, is the man in the picture at the top, kissing the woman. He's getting a book together at the moment, and is trying to track down seeing this film, probably via a Warhol Museum, so we're looking through Soap Opera articles. Very interesting article.



Paul said...

I saw this film today at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. It was part of a Warhol film series being shown there. "Soap Opera" had more of a sense of humor than other Warhol films I've seen.

Anonymous said...

I saw this film today at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. It has more of a sense of humor than other Warhol films I've seen.