Lions Love ( . . . and Lies)
Viva, Jim Rado, Jerry Ragni, Shirley Clarke,
“The pressures here in Hollywood are so great, from all the dead people,” opines Warhol superstar Viva in Varda’s experimental feature, shot in Los Angeles in 1968. The external pressures on our heroine at first seem to be few. Drifting naked in the pool, attended by swains Jim Rado and Jerry Ragni (the writer-singers of Hair), she has little more to do than recite pop aphorisms. But the atmosphere of hippie bliss is disrupted when the trio’s houseguest, filmmaker Shirley Clarke, attempts suicide (directed to “swallow” a handful of pills, the sensible Clarke complains while the cameras roll, “This whole thing, it’s not my style!”), Bobby Kennedy gets killed on TV, and news of the shooting of Andy Warhol arrives by telephone. What’s a superstar to do? Bracketed by performances of Michael McClure’s The Beard—with cameos by Eddie Constantine and Peter Bogdanovich, among others—Lions Love is a deliberately decadent riff on fantasy, immaturity, and violence: American culture, 1968.