Warhol would probably embrace the idea of extending his way-more-than-15 minutes of fame, and the project — directed by Andrew Rossi, and produced by the prolific Ryan Murphy — certainly does that. In fact, while the “Everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” quote might have been misattributed to the artist, with most episodes running more than an hour, “Diaries” adds 395 minutes to Warhol’s tally, for whatever that’s worth.
Rossi uses the posthumously published diaries as the program’s narrative spine, while darting about in a manner that represents the chaotic times during which Warhol lived, the lives he touched, and the various contradictions associated with him.
Few personalities have possessed such range, and the breadth of Warhol’s reach and influence is only rivaled by the name-dropping in the diaries — including those who lined up for his celebrity portraits — a list as impressive as it is exhausting.
At the same time, Warhol continuously played coy about his own sexuality, sidestepping those questions. Toward that end, Rossi spends a considerable amount of time focusing on Warhol’s relationships — first with Jed Johnson, and later film executive Jon Gould.
In those moments and others, the artist doesn’t always serve as the most reliable of narrators, and the third-party voices enlisted to discuss him — ranging from close associates to biographers — often shed more light on who Warhol really was than the diary entries do.
Yet for all that the series meticulously reveals, it only goes so far in penetrating Warhol’s protective shell, and like its subject, alternates between being fascinating and frustrating.
Warhol was an extraordinarily public figure who endeavored to maintain a private curtain. The artificial voice revives his words and thoughts, but there are still aspects of the person who dictated them that can only be guessed at — a colorful riddle that even an effort this comprehensive can’t entirely decode.
“The Andy Warhol Diaries” premieres March 9 on Netflix.