Excerpts from Candy's diary, which she started aged 14, are shown and read by actress Chloë Sevigny, having been published in book form as 'My Face for the World to See'. Many of those who knew her in the late 1960s through Andy Warhol and the Factory scene are interviewed – Fran Lebowitz, Gerard Malanga, Vincent Fremont, Pat Hackett, Agosto Machado, Holly Woodlawn – and are even audio comments on Darling are heard from Warhol shooter Valerie Solanis. But the lynchpin of this documentary is Candy's friend and roommate Jeremiah Newton, who first met her at 15. It was Newton who originally approached director James Rasin with the idea of doing a film on Darling's fascinating, difficult life. In the years after her death, Newton gathered material from her mother, kept an audio diary of his memories, and started taping conversations with those who knew her. During the four years in which this docu was made, Newton had Darling's ashes interred at Cherry Valley Cemetery, New York (shots of the funeral and memorial slab are shown), and donated archive items to the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.
Candy's life, although short, is not represented as a tragedy. She became the movie star she had yearned to be, adored by the avant-garde, theatre audiences, at Max's Kansas City; she lived out her fantasy world, even making it to Hollywood. On her deathbed, she didn't stop performing, posing for one last photograph in full make-up with a rose thrown on the duvet of her hospital bed (this famous photograph, taken by Peter Hujar, became the front cover of Antony & the Johnsons' 2005 album I Am a Bird Now). There are suggestions that, like Jean Harlow, Peg Entwistle, and Marilyn Monroe – of whom Darling kept a picture on her dressing room table – she wasn't adverse to the "glamour" of dying young & extravagantly beautiful since it reinforced her affinity with those whom she idolised, parodied, and strove to embody.
In his film Rasin doesn't make the possible connection of the lymphoma that killed Candy at 29 and her consumption of hormone pills from the early 1960s onwards. And I wonder whether Jeremiah's influence as producer shows itself here: he comes across as fiercely protective of her memory, refusing to believe others who, for example, claim that Darling prostituted herself to make money. This is perhaps the largest question mark of all in the docu: Even 36 years after her death, Jeremiah is shown as a man still intensely preoccupied by the transsexual star and intent on keeping her fantasy/memory alive. Why is he still (seemingly) in thrall to the paradoxes and complications of her life? What does Darling's intense identity struggle represent for him?
Inevitably there are other points of contention, with one commentator claiming Candy was secretly in love with Gerard Malanga; some who saw her as naive while others felt she was a highly-conscious performer; and some who view her as another of Warhol's long-line of "victims" who died young (Candy died, incidentally, just a few blocks from the Factory at Columbus Hospital). By 1973-74, Warhol had moved on to other projects and Candy – like others – fell out of favour. Rasin defended him after the screening at Berlin, arguing that people used Andy as much as he used others.
Candy would, of course, have been thrilled to know that so long after her lifetime, she is still up there on the big screen. It's her words that are heard before the credits roll: "There is one thing I must tell you because I just found it to be a truth. You must always be yourself no matter what the price. It is the highest form of morality." (8/10)