Camp | Movie Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe



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.

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 

Add a comment