Andy Warhol Gregory Battcock - Essay

Gregory Battcock

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Screen Test is a transitional work both in technique and content…. Yet the "still image" device is still retained in Screen Test. (By "still image" I refer to Warhol's technique of reducing the action on the screen to small variations of posture on the part of the single image—variations that are further limited by Warhol's refusal to move the camera.) (p. 62)

The burden of the film rests squarely on the audience. The audience, never catered to, is abused, exposed and ridiculed. It is, at the same time, very much considered. The film represents certainly an extension of the new realism to such a degree that complacency which indeed goes hand in hand with much which is supposed to be avant-garde is notably absent…. If Sleep or Empire were films to turn on to, Screen Test is actively interesting because the viewer is forced into an immediate and not altogether unfamiliar involvement. (pp. 62-3)

In presenting these disturbing challenges to the nature of the medium, Warhol hinders understanding and sympathy by his choice of vehicle. However, sexual dualism represented on the screen can be taken as further proof of Warhol's intent to unmask the sexual fraud of the contemporary cinema….

The films of Warhol represent a coherent series of attacks on the restrictions and hypocracies of the media. Sleep makes use of the reduction concept: Couch and Henry Geldzahler play with suspense and anticipation: Blowjob an essay in humanism: Screen Test deals with the actor and the audience: Horse the sadomasochism underlying the good guy versus bad guy facade of the Western: and The Life Of Juanita Castro representing in its scope and pattern, the epic.

In this procession of films, there is no pause for reflection and little self-indulgent repetition. If, by now, the earlier works are of the classical avantgarde, the newer ones continue to present the challenge, uncertainty and polemic which is art. (p. 63)

Gregory Battcock, "Notes on 'Screen Test': A Film by Andy Warhol," in Film Culture (copyright 1965 by Film Culture), No. 38, Fall, 1965, pp. 62-3.