"I would like to be famous for 16 minutes" and so in a new film called Ultra Violet for Sixteen Minutes we actually witness the extra minute of fame due to Andy Warhol's cohort Ultra Violet -(nee Isabelle Colin-Dufresne) now in her 70's - as she stares into the camera for her 15+ star turn. Take a look:
This independent short film by David Henry Gerson began its film festival circuit last week in Washington DC and presents Ultra Violet - former Warhol "superstar", mistress and cohort of Salvador Dali, noteworthy artist in her own right, and now an elderly French woman living in New York City as she presents herself for yet another screen test and reflects on her life, fame, art, religion and Martin Luther King.
A beautiful portrait of a woman being as honest as she can about a life complicated by the spotlights.
"Fame is a pre-taste of immortality" she says at the start, and then perhaps indicts herself as well as others when she adds, "People who are famous go down in history and are remembered...people are hypnotized by fame, they want fame so they hook on to people who are famous." The art of her life and this film however, comes when she says, "My speciality is to move on."
"In terms of fame, she was to her generation something like what Paris Hilton is to mine," says filmmaker Gerson, "the It Girl that everyone knew about but who everyone knew little of. Warhol and the factory were masters of creating one's own celerity. You could create your own press for coolness."
He adds, however, "Will people know about Paris Hilton in 20 or 50 years? Probably not. Because what talent does her fame stand on? Warhol's obsession with fame celebrated an empty aspect of our society. What is fame worth for the duration of a human life?"
Key in the film is a near death experience in 1973 when Ultra Violet thinks she clinically died due to the chemical excesses of the sixties ("I never slept in 1968") that jump-started a sense of mortality and a desire to seek another path.
"I was existing and having fun and being hedonistic," she says, "later on you question your mortality...we can be forgiven." The experience brought on a newly embraced faith and spirituality.
Posed in front of a vivid Warhol painting of an orange flower, she fashions an old lavender bustier into a more age-appropriate hair ornament and admits, "My life has not been what it should have been...I am myself totally recycled."
While she seems to have no regrets about her time with Dali and Warhol she has her own take on them now, so many years later. "Dali called himself divine and it was well-deserved...but Dali made a mockery of God, he once said 'God is about the size of my little cane' and how funny is that, how would he know?"
And Warhol. "Happy? He was never happy...happiness doesn't apply to a genius." She adds that when he went into the hospital in 1982 he asked at the front desk if there were any other famous people checked in at the time. "It was all he cared for, he was reassured he was the most famous person there and he died three days later. How pathetic is that?"
Filmmaker Gerson is also an actor and admits, "It's hard not to be intrigued by fame...but one of Ultra Violet's bits of wisdom here is that fame and success should only be the bi-product of hard work and talent, and not the goal. This is where I think Warhol really and profoundly contributed to messing up our society."
This gem of a little film leaves a glittering reflection of a life lived larger than many of us could still imagine, yet still found lacking by its born-again star.
"As you come closer to your true nature you are more fulfilled" she says about her world view today, "You have to live your life like it's your last day to do what you want...I don't want to get drunk, I want to make a contribution. I want to leave something behind me. I don't think its ego, it's a legacy...I admire Martin Luther King, what a fantastic prophecy and legacy he left. He's still in the dream." Spoken like a true artist and not a world-weary once-famous person after all.....