Thursday, August 6, 2009

Appetites for Life: Julia and Andy

It’s not every week I get swept into two such distinctly different worlds of desire as those of Julia Child and Andy Warhol within 24 hours. I’m feeling a little cultural whiplash here, (and in Andy’s world, those lashes would be a bit further down.) But what connected the two experiences were strong individuals who insisted on living life on their own terms.

It started with a preview screening of Nora Ephron’s Julie & Julia. It’s a charming film, perfect summer fare. I love the Julia part, and didn’t love the Julie part, I’m sorry to say, since she is the first blogger to have such a major motion picture. But her gimmick to cook her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking for her blog and her life in Queens embodied through Amy Adams fell flat for me.

Especially as juxtaposed with Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci creating the genuinely cosmopolitan Childs. The film telegraphed many things beautifully: Julia’s desire to “doooooooo something,” since she did not have children to raise; her courage to walk into the sexist, nationalist Cordon Bleu; her perseverance in testing recipes and editing her cookbook; her élan that gets to grow and sparkle because of her husband Paul.

She was born into a well-to-do Pasadena family, but her six foot stature made her an outsider to the usual country-club wives set. Lucky for her. Her life was much more exotic than that tableau from the moment she volunteered for the OSS during the war to the beginning of her married life in France. The film captures the late 1940s, 50s Paris in all its great chic glory. It’s very sunny in that Paris, with bright saturated colors. This mirrors Julia’s sunny passions, where alcohol is the drug of choice---it pairs well with the exquisite food and brightens the sense of well-being.

There were moments when I thought Streep went a little over-the-top with the voice and the mannerisms, but then that's just who Julia was: extreme height, talent, and sense of self.

The VH1 Roc Doc Lords of the Revolution is a six-part series, and I saw the Andy Warhol episode, with Billy Name, Bibbe Hansen, Bob Weide, and Danny Fields in attendance. This was the dark side of desire, the release of raw energy and art in the Factory. The film is actual footage from the days of Gerard Malanga, Ondine, Lou Reed, Edie Sedgwick, Candy Darling, Holly Woodlawn, and others, interspersed with talking heads from the few living survivors.

The footage is mostly black and white, mirroring the dark and stark nature of youthful sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. Speed is the drug of choice, amping up the inhibitions. Andy is the center, the catalyst, and the voyeur. His darkness quips about filming the suicide of his friends. That’s the thing about darkness—-it knows no bounds.

The VH1 doc is good, but intrinsically counter to its subject matter. It neatly put order onto chaos, a structured narrative sense on what was a free-flowing nonsense of play.

My world is neither as sunny as Julia’s nor as dark as Andy’s. But I love dipping into the waters of each, on my own terms, of course.


Tim Footman said...

Did they put Meryl on a box? She's not particularly tall, is she?

M.A.Peel said...

She's not, and there was some sort of LOTR type camera work going on in some of the scenes. But she also just played tall, outsized. Remarkable, as always.