Sleep | Chicago Reader

Sleep

Andy Warhol's frequently discussed but rarely screened 1963 masterpiece is often described as an eight-hour real-time silent film of a man sleeping, shot from a single camera position. But in fact it's about five hours, depending on the projection speed, and it was shot over many months, from various static camera angles and with many repeated shots, presented at times in a surprisingly systematic manner. Many have argued that Warhol was trying to make an outrageous film that would become notorious. Others have suggested that he was continuing the aesthetic of composer John Cage, which asks the viewer to find interest in the most ordinary of details—here the sleeping man's breathing, the film grain, the way a lack of action makes us aware of our own attention patterns. Sleep is an erotic film as well (the nude sleeper, poet John Giorno, was Warhol's occasional lover), a voyeur's paradise in which every detail of the body—chest hair, skin texture, the sleeper?s raised brow and almost sculptural face—can be studied with an interminable, distinctively creepy obsessiveness.

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