Short notice is Screen Comment’s new column. It is exclusively devoted to short films.
Australian filmmaker Jacobie Gray has directed a vivid, modern-day period piece of a relationship of the kind that Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick were famous for. “The Beehive” explores the affinity between an artist and his muse. Gray portrays the avant-garde culture of the New York art scene in the sixties through a modern retelling brilliantly. Locations (including a loft-like factory) as well as classic production design and costumes, help recreate the bravura that made that epoch famous. Francesca Savige (she’s a well-known theater actress in Australia) and Felix Jozeps (he’s notably appeared in the Jane Campion-directed TV series “Top of the Lake China Girl” recently) capture remarkably the antics and idiosyncracies of artistic types living in that decade.
The prime contribution that “Beehive” makes to our understanding of one of the Sixties era’s most infamous relationship is in how the main characters stand in as living microcosms of Warhol’s “Fifteen Minutes of Fame” comment. In “The Beehive” this refers to a muse’s cruelly-short lifespan, before the next Queen Bee takes her place. Of course, and without giving away the ending, the model’s jealous and vengeful response to her treatment serves as metaphor for the film’s double-meaning title, the Beehive being a place where artists cross-pollinate.
Gray underscores the cautionary aspect of the film through full-circle storytelling. Fame was fleeting then, and it is so today, still. This hasn’t changed, so beware! People famous for being famous was just the lot that Warhol cultivated at the Factory. But, as Gray told me during a brief interview we had together at the Tribeca Film Festival in April, “not even Warhol could’ve predicted today’s social media selfie phenomenon.” She mused that, “Sedgwick died a lonely, drug-fueled death after Warhol rejected her. No longer the subject of his affection or his reality-style films, she self-destructed. ‘The Beehive’ explores what could’ve happened if Edie had chosen a more self-affirming path.”
Jacobie Gray’s previous short,“The Aquarium,” debuted at the 2015 ShortFest in Palm Springs, Calif. Her first short, “Cavity” was selected at Tropfest Australia. She is currently developing a feature debut, about a mother desperately trying to keep her family together as she deals with her son’s mental illness.
Rudy Cecera is a regular contributor to Screen Comment. He recently covered the Tribeca Film Festival and has written extensively about Mabel Normand. He teaches film studies (@rcomwrit22).