Review: ‘Pie in the Sky: The Brigid Berlin Story’

The life and times of Brigid Berlin, the socialite who became an actress in Andy Warhol films, is examined in this occasionally amusing but also rather sad documentary. There are reasonable prospects for theatrical runs in major North American cities, but elsewhere item will be restricted to festival screenings and video release, where it could achieve cult status.

The life and times of Brigid Berlin, the socialite who became an actress in Andy Warhol films, is examined in this occasionally amusing but also rather sad documentary. There are reasonable prospects for theatrical runs in major North American cities, but elsewhere item will be restricted to festival screenings and video release, where it could achieve cult status.

Now 60 years old, Berlin is filmed in her cluttered New York apartment where she lives with her pug dogs. She recalls her life with her wealthy parents, Richard and Honey Berlin. Her father was head of the Hearst Corp., and a right-wing Republican whose close friends included Richard Nixon, Joe McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover. Her mother was a fixture of the East Coast social whirl, a contemporary of Diana Vreeland.

Berlin rebelled from the start. After an early, brief marriage and a stint at a fasting clinic in Mexico (she has long had a problem with her weight), she wound up in Greenvich Village as one of the hangers-on at Andy Warhol’s Factory. Soon she was famous for her Polaroid snapshots and her habit of taping telephone conversations, recordings she still has.

She appeared as Duchess, the lesbian drug dealer, in “The Chelsea Girls” and also had roles in “Bike Boys” and “Imitation of Christ.” Not surprisingly, her activities alienated her parents.

Notable among the interviewees is John Waters, who claims Berlin was “always my favorite Warhol star” and who gave her a small role in “Serial Mom.” Berlin, who in some scenes in the docu is on a strict diet and looks quite slim, while in others has obviously succumbed to her favorite dish, key lime pie and whipped cream, talks frankly about her life and does sharp imitations of her mother and Warhol. She recalls that when she had a one-woman stage show, she would call her mother and have the conversation amplified for the benefit of the audience.

Warhol is heard via some of Berlin’s many tapes. She also shows the book she kept back then in which celebrities, among them Jane Fonda, Leonard Cohen and Dennis Hopper, drew penises for her. She’s seen, in archival material, topless, working on what she called her “tit paintings,” covering her breasts with paint and pressing them on sheets of paper; Waters is glimpsed as the recipient of one such work of art.

Co-director/producer Vincent Fremont was VP of Andy Warhol Enterprises for a while, and the access to Warhol material and ephemera enhances this portrait. Still feisty, the obsessively neat Berlin comes across as a rather sad character despite her colorful and provocative life.

Pie in the Sky: The Brigid Berlin Story

Production

A Vincent Fremont Enterprises production. Produced, directed by Vincent Fremont, Shelly Dunn Fremont.

Crew

Camera (color), Vic Losick; editor, Michael Levine; music, Chris Stein; sound, Tony Pettine, Jose Torres, David Ryan; associate producer, Amy DiPasquale. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (New Territories), Sept. 8, 2000. Running time: 75 MIN.

With

Brigid Berlin, John Waters, Patty Hearst, Paul Morrissey, Taylor Mead, Larry Rivers, Richard Bernstein, Bob Colacello.

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