Empire (1964)

Genres - Avant-garde / Experimental  |   Run Time - 480 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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Empire, an eight-hour film of the Empire State Building shot from a fixed perspective from early evening into the night, is at once the most talked-about and the least seen of all of Andy Warhol's films. As in his other notoriously lengthy project Sleep, its duration turns seemingly insignificant events like the building's lights coming on into dramatic moments, but its importance lies not so much in its execution as in the tremendous audacity of the project itself. If, as has been argued, Warhol's Campbell's Soup can paintings and Brillo box sculptures transformed art-making from a physical into a philosophical act, then Empire could be said to do the same for filmmaking. With their long, fixed-perspective shots of mundane activities, Warhol's early '60s films constantly remind viewers that the camera is a machine capable of paying attention to anything for any length of time. Empire takes this idea to its absurd but logical extreme by asking its audience to commit this nearly impossible act of attention themselves. Warhol's abandonment of silent filmmaking soon after it was completed suggests that he too believed that Empire completed this stage of his filmmaking career.