Warhol may have been an East Coast native but art brought him to sunny California once upon a time. Shot in 16mm color film, "San Diego Surf" was left unfinished due to injuries after his attempted murder but recently completed by his co-director Paul Morrissey. Four decades later, the film is screened for the first time.
Plucked out of his notorious Factory in New York, Andy Warhol traveled to the West Coast in the summer of 1968 to film a narrative about an unhappily married couple who rent their beach house out to surfers. San Diego Surf was shot with two 16mm cameras which he manned with Paul Morrissey, co-director for his other projects like Flesh, Trash, and Women in Revolt. It features actors such as Superstars Viva, Taylor Mead, Louis Waldon, Joe Dallesandro, Tom Hompertz, Ingrid Superstar, and Eric Emerson.
A month after the film was shot, a murder attempt on Warhol ended his film-making career. Fellow artist Valerie Solanas shot him in the front which left him severely wounded and debilitated, needing a surgical corset and preventing him from extended work behind a movie camera.
“Before I was shot, I always thought that I was more half-there than all-there—I always suspected that I was watching TV instead of living life. People sometimes say that the way things happen in movies is unreal, but actually it’s the way things happen in life that’s unreal. The movies make emotions look so strong and real, whereas when things really do happen to you, it’s like watching television—you don’t feel anything. Right when I was being shot and ever since, I knew that I was watching television. The channels switch, but it’s all television.”
In 1995, nearly a decade after his death, the Andy Warhol Foundation commissioned Morrissey to complete the editing, based on existing notes and the rough cut. San Diego Surf was publicly screened for the first time in January 2013 at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 40 years after it was filmed. How’s that for “new wave” cinema?