Andy Warhol’s films are rarely shown, due mostly to their fragile condition. Some might argue that’s a good thing, since most (all?) of them flout filmmaking convention and, in many cases, were made to be deliberately unwatchable. Empire, for example, consists of one continuous eight-hour shot of the Empire State Building, while Blow Job shows nothing more than the face of a man receiving one.
But we contend the artist’s film projects, many of them made in collaboration with Paul Morrissey, were eminently watchable for their sheer lunacy and how Warhol’s Superstar non-actors were allowed to be themselves on camera — or rather, melodramatic versions of themselves. Warhol’s films were never about the plot.
People will soon be able to judge for themselves. The Warhol Foundation and MoMA have announced a joint effort to digitize around 1,000 rolls of Warhol’s 16mm film. The project will see roughly 500 works converted, frame by frame, into high-res footage, with the assistance of the visual-effects studio MCP, better known for its work on Godzilla, The X-Men, and Guardians of the Galaxy. When the process is completed in a number of years, the Foundation and MoMA will be able to screen and loan out these once delicate films. In the meantime, the Warhol Foundation says it will showcase 15 never-before-seen films, also digitally restored by MPC, later this year at its Pittsburgh location.