Second Time Around

The Unscreened Warhol
Andy Warhol's early films are more notorious than known -- with the exception of an occasional Chelsea Girls or Empire, which usually cause a stampede to the exits after the first hour or two. But more accessible works like Restaurant and Screen Test #2 (both 1965 and appearing on the West Coast for the first time in Sunday's S.F. Cinematheque presentation) show Warhol as a casually brilliant formalist and campmeister extraordinaire. The 33-minute Restaurant, with Edie Sedgwick, Ondine, and other "superstars," opens with a perversely long static shot of a still life -- a cluttered table in a restaurant barely disturbed by an occasional hand reaching for a drink or fiddling with a purse. This amusing attack on classicism expands into a kind of grim existential comedy when the camera pulls back for an unblinking record of the mindless chatter of a pack of self-absorbed Factory rejects. Equally thrilling is the 66-minute Screen Test #2, a tour de force with drag queen Mario Montez being brutally hectored by an off-screen Ronald Tavel. In a strategy that still looks fresh today, the visuals consist solely of Montez's face as he primps and pouts and desperately tries to enact a wide array of ridiculous characters -- lady of leisure, female geek -- hurled at him by the shrewish Tavel: God as Evil Queen.

-- Gary Morris

Restaurant and Screen Test #2 screen on one program Sunday, April 12, at 7:30 p.m. presented by the S.F. Cinematheque at the S.F. Art Institute, 800 Chestnut (at Jones). Tickets are $7; call 558-8129.

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