Andy Warhol’s “The Chelsea Girls” | HOW TO SEE Double-Screen Films

Andy Warhol’s “The Chelsea Girls” | HOW TO SEE Double-Screen Films

“This may be a historic document.” There are famous quotes of Warhol saying
“I’ve stopped painting. I’m now making movies” My name is Greg Pierce. I’m the Associate Curator of Film and Video at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. Today we’re going to take a look at Andy Warhol’s 1966 double-screen film “The Chelsea Girls.” “The children never come up to their expectations.” “I don’t believe in that” Even if you watch the film two or three times,
your focus is going to change, so it’s always going to have a different narrative for yourself. So every viewer ends up making
their own narrative for this. It’s dealing with a scene that
no one in the mainstream basically ever gets to look into. So, it was a window. For some it was, like, a vision of hell… This window into this freak scene. And to others, it’s like the Iliad of the underground. Or, you know, there are other comparisons
to, like, Joyce and Dante. When “The Chelsea Girls” first premiered, it
was made up of twelve individual reels that weren’t locked into place yet. So, early on the projectionists were allowed
to, you know, with input from Warhol and company, reorder the reels for different screenings. It’s kind of Warhol’s first foray into
this idea where the filmmaker makes something, but then it’s not finished until the projectionist
actually creates it in the theater itself. Eventually, when the film became popular and
it moved to the uptown cinemas, there was need for a script for the projectionists to
follow so that they knew what to do with the twelve reels they were given to project. Which is the standard version that
we know of as “The Chelsea Girls.” There’s a set 12 reels, and there’s a set
order for the way you show them and how you manipulate the sound on them. The films are dirty. And I mean that sometimes in subject matter,
but also just in, like… it’s the physicality of it. Like, the way they look. There’s no beginning, middle, and end to
this film. It’s not a narrative that way. There is a loose narrative that all these
things take place at a place called… at least what we’re assuming is the Chelsea Hotel. And these are the denizens of this hotel,
and this is what they do in their different rooms. “Your girlfriend was beautiful.” “Your mother was beautiful.” “Your father was beautiful.” “All the friends you ever knew…” It’s a pretty powerful blend of the scripted
and the non-scripted. And it really kind of showcases what Warhol’s
cinema was capable of producing in the sense of personalities trying to follow a script, losing
the script, not stopping the camera, and allowing a new reality to come out of that. “What else should I speak about?” “I can’t think. I’m just annoyed at this scene and my participation in it, although my participation was perfect” “Oh hello dear.” For about the past three years I have been
preparing the actual original film material for digitization. We are following the script that goes with
the film, like any other projectionist, and we are creating, in essence, one version of
the film. It’s not a definitive version. They’re just doing a 2K scan of the material. The films, I hope, look like the 16-millimeter
films that they are. That you can see the grains swimming, that
you can see some scratches once in a while, you will see dirt go by, there’s splices because
there was… you know, the film was damaged at some point,
we lost some frames. All that’s going to be in there, there’s no… you know, we’re not tweaking anything so that
it looks pretty. We were the projectionists for this version. And that’s what we’ll be showing for at least
for the time being, until we think about the philosophical issues involved and,
like, how to bring it back to a non-standard standard version. So those are my thoughts on “The Chelsea Girls” and Andy Warhol as a filmmaker. What are your thoughts? If you have any comments, please leave them below in the comments section. Please subscribe for more videos like this and others from the Museum of Modern Art. My name is Greg Pierce, I’m the Associate Curator of Film and Video at the Andy Warhol Museum. Thanks for watching.

11 thoughts on “Andy Warhol’s “The Chelsea Girls” | HOW TO SEE Double-Screen Films

  1. i saw it the way it was supposed to be at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, MN circa 1980 something….2 synced up projectors with a packed auditorium…3+ hours later there were 7 of us left…it has its moments…but overall it's a terror and realization that people can be animals…."The Chelsea Girls" exemplified "Art" doesn't have to have meaning…it has a purpose, but we are better than this…well at least some of us are???

  2. I think Warhol's films are too often overshadowed by his screenprint paintings, perhaps because the prints are much more marketable (able to be bought and sold in the art market much easier than a film.) The dismissal of Warhol as a hack, (maybe because of his means of production or his use of appropriation) holds less weight when considering his innovations and experiments with film. I also enjoy the prints but have always found the films to be especially strong.

  3. Thank you- our friend Patrick appears in this film.

  4. Can we ever hope for a DVD reissue of the film???

  5. I'm sorry, this film is garbage. It makes "Plan 9 from Outerspace" look like "Citizen Kane." Just because Warhol did this doesn't mean it is art.

  6. Mr. Pierce, Will MoMa's release of "The Chelsea Girls" have long passages of silence, as a current YouTube posting of the film does? I find it hard to believe that these silences are intentional.

  7. Great quality. The sound still sucks. Thanks, Andy

  8. Is it possible for you to isolate the Velvet Underground's soundtrack from the dialogue? It's fascinating from a historic musical perspective. I know there are thoughts that they should not ever be enjoyed separately, but I am not from that camp. They can be enjoyed together and also separately and would dearly love to hear it in both manners. It would be as if you were attending a special silent screening with the Velvet Underground providing a live improvised soundtrack. I know they did this in their early days to some of Warhol's other films. I also know that La Monte Young did soundtracks for other early "silent" films which would also be of great (and historic) interest.

  9. … personalities trying to follow a script, losing the script, not stopping the camera, and allowing a new reality to come out of that.

    ~Greg Pierce

  10. This makes me want to see out alternate presentations of the film, since the print of this that I saw a few years ago had no sound whatsoever with the Marie Mencken segment, so hearing her speak in your clips was an unexpected thrill.

  11. Hey, any updates on the digitized version? Can we expect to see an officially available, cleaned up, streamable version any time soon?

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