Camp | Movie Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader
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Camp

Andy Warhol's 1965 response to Susan Sontag's famous essay defining "camp" won my heart at the outset when its cast members (including Mario Montez, Gerard Malanga, and Jack Smith) start by discussing summer camps they've attended. Filmed at Warhol's New York studio, the Factory, against walls covered with silver foil, each person presents a performance illustrating his or her idea of camp. Malanga reads a poem about public sex acts he's engaged in; Smith comes "out of the closet" by creating a powerfully restrained, near-static mini drama that climaxes with the opening of a closet that contains a little Batman figure. Unlike the later Warhol films directed by Paul Morrissey, this has the raw, improvised, mistake-filled look of much of Warhol's early art. One can see the random effects that inspired later filmmakers and performance artists, happy accidents like a crew member repeatedly adjusting a microphone within the frame or absurd stylistic elements like zooms that only sometimes find a human target. Most memorably Tally Brown explains, "I don't think anybody's camping. I think we're all doing ourselves." Therein lies Warhol's implicit quarrel with Sontag: "Camp" is not about momentary poses but about how the roles people assume define their lives. Kino-Eye Cinema at Xoinx Tea Room, 2933 N. Lincoln, Friday, June 12, 8:00, 773-384-5533.

-- Fred Camper

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.

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