Stanislaw Mucha’s third docu, “Absolut Warhola,” is an agreeably loose and free record of a visit to the east Slovakian villages that claim Andy Warhol as their own, but with an undercurrent of sadness that makes this the film equivalent of a pleasant white wine with a kicker to it. Mucha has mastered the art of flying by the seat of his pants and keeping his eyes (aided by able lenser Susanne Schule) open to anything that happens within view of his camera. Pic gains further grace by not making profound points but simply observing. Superb fest entry will face a difficult theatrical life, though it should reach an eager art-related video market in ancillary.
Less about Warhol than the Slovak region of Ruthenia where the artists’ parents hail from, pic begins as a road movie account of Mucha’s mostly German crew trying to find the towns of Mikova (the parents’ actual home) and nearby Medzilaborce, home of the Andy Warhol Museum. Warhol’s various cousins and aunts in Mikova are happy, willing hosts, aware of their world famous relative but not too phased by it. Cousin Janko Zavacky notes, in fact, that only in 1978 did the locals learn about their legendary kin, since, “before democracy,” one observes, “Andy was forbidden.”
The museum, under the proud guidance of curator Dr. Michal Bycko, appears to be an impressive facility in such a small, remote town, with its rather lavish, physically handsome interior as a backdrop for a permanent collection that holds items on view nowhere else. Nevertheless, the roof constantly leaks, the local Gypsies are up in arms that they’re banned from the museum, and Bycko is miffed that the museum doesn’t get the support or attendance he thinks it deserves.
What interests Mucha are the rhythms and little absurdities of everyday life in this corner of Ruthenia, a zone distinguished by huge, edible wild mushrooms, sylvan rolling hills, indigenous folk music and chronic, debilitating unemployment. This slow, traditional, agrarian world couldn’t be more different from the artist’s fast, celebrity-choked, ultra-urban universe. Yet Mucha never drives this, nor any point, hard, but simply allows life to roll on, knowing full well that the townspeople are happily playing a bit for the camera.
Editing by Lili Kobbe and Werner Dutsch is aces, in keeping with Mucha’s free and easy manner. Pic is quite beautiful, providing a case for choosing film over video for such undertakings.