theoretical premises, the films are failures, unendurably tedious experiments in non-technique, experiments that never went beyond a gratuitous negation of the medium. Like the emperor's new clothes, the profound qualities attributed to the films never existed; sloppy thinking, indifference, and careless execution are boring. According to Dwight MacDonald, Warhol is a marvelously successful huckster, "the Ponzi of the movie-world," manipulating a public "afraid to be laughed at if it didn't respond" (68).
However, his non-interventionist technique does significantly reduce the role of the artist and the audience. Also, viewing simple images recorded in the simplest manner for extended periods does potentially alter accustomed patterns of experiencing and provides a new way to understand film. And despite a wealth of negative criticism, Warhol's early films are classics of avant-garde cinema. Historically, O'Pray identifies them as an important link in the evolution in an aesthetic of diminishing content, first by the Impressionists, later by Duchamp's ready-mades, continuing with Minimalism (172), a point also made by James and Bourdon (135; 48). Koch situates these films within the non-narrative "poetic" avant-garde and related to the work of Cocteau and Bunuel, transplanting into film the high-modernist sensibility prevalent in the painting of the time (19). Jonas Mekas, who first wrote about them, sees Warhol's early films as a unique contribution to the medium; no one, he notes, has approached form, subject, and technique in quite the same way (28).
It may well be that Warhol was one of the most influential filmmakers of the 1960s, that his films ultimately expanded the mechanics of the medium, creating new ideas about how the camera could be used, what could occur before it, how the results were shown, and what the function of the artist and his audience might be in all of this. It may be. But as with his painting, all of his work really, the question remains: Is he the creative genius who forever changed the way we think about film or a hip, opportunistic hack? The answer has always depended on whom you believe.