Saturday, November 30, 2013

I, A Man (1967): Women and sex

I, a Man (1967)
dir: Andy Warhol, Paul Morrissey

While Warhol's Factory spelled the inevitable downfall of Cafe Cino, his production of film could be stood up against Andy Milligan's films. At the time of I, A Man, Milligan was making his first round of exploitation cheapies. In 1967 alone, Milligan directed The Promiscuous Sex, The Degenerates, Depraved!, Compass Rose, The Naked Witch, and The Gay Life.

Obviously, Milligan was going the straight up exploitation route, while Warhol and Morrissey were going the course of the art house. Though, later, Morrissey would make exploitative art house. I, A Man is Morrissey and Warhol's commercial take on the Swedish I, A Woman. Somebody suggested to Warhol that they wanted a sexploitation film in the vein of I, A Woman, and so he and Morrissey concocted I, A Man. They created the story of this male hustler who talks with and sleeps with a series of women over the course of the film.

The women are: a young woman who worries about parental acceptance of her sexuality, a woman who is on a couch, a woman with whom he does a seance, a woman who speaks French, a lesbian, and a married woman. Almost of these scenes seem to be totally improvised and just so bored.

Except, the most interesting part about I, A Man is also the most interesting scene of I, A Man. The second to last woman of the movie is Valerie Solanas, the subject of I Shot Andy Warhol, who would eventually shoot Warhol over whatever reasons you want to believe. In all the other scenes, the women may have some mild sexual agency, but they also possess this passivity that they think men desire of them. Morrissey does desire that of his females. But, then there is Solanas, whom Warhol had been fascinated with.

Solanas' role as a lesbian who loves squeezing the guy's ass is straight up arresting. She's taking control of the situation, and for once Tom Baker, the hustler, actually is acting in a passive vulnerable nature. She's squeezing his ass and asking how he keeps it so squishy. Valerie is telling him that she'd fuck him in the hall, but there was no way they were going to her room to fuck because her "roommate" (code for lesbian partner) was actually sleeping. This scene where Solanas takes charge and intimidates Tom Baker really is the stand-out of the movie simply because it is also the most different in terms of energy and female agency.

In the opening scene, the girl is trying to kick Baker out, but doesn't really succeed. In the final scene, Baker is pretty much controlling the conversation try as the married woman might to control it. And, then there is the goddamned seance where the woman undergoes fake hypnosis and starts chanting bullshit at Baker's insistence. Ridiculous and silly. But, Solanas doesn't let Baker get away with any kind of shit.

Which brings us back to Morrissey. He was fond of saying that he made movies in which he let people be who they are. He also said that he would find the people in his movies, and while they became Warhol's Superstars, he claims to have found them. Except for Solanas, who stumbled into the Factory on her own. The ideal women of Morrissey's films were all radically feminine. It's also why he loved having drag queens in his movies. But, his women were the opposite of the feminist dyke that Solanas represented.

The thing with Morrissey's films, especially compared to Andy Milligan's films, is that Morrissey actually takes a distance from his subjects. He doesn't really know his characters much. He doesn't care to know them. He likes them, finds them interesting, but he doesn't think they're all that abhorrent. His camera is neutral. He's content to let everybody be who they were. It achieves a more naturalistic feel to the movie, but it is all about surface. There is hardly anything in I, A Man that provokes any kind of true analysis of society or sexuality. Maybe there is something in the sexual dynamics of the married woman to the hustler, but whatever it is is very light. But, then there is Solanas' scene filled with the radical politics that Solanas interjected, and Morrissey couldn't care about. In the end, I, A Man is hardly worth your time unless you like watching bored women talk with a bored hustler and then fuck him.

Be aware: this film also makes use of a flickering edit that also uses a rewind track and makes use of subliminal 1-2 frame edits of closeups. It is subliminal and semi-interesting, and will be used in movies far down the road.

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