“Brillo Box 3c Off” (premiering August 7, on HBO)

Brillo box

July 30, 2017.  In the new documentary, “Brillo Box 3c Off,” filmmaker Lisanne Skyler has created a fascinating, playful, energetic, funny and highly enjoyable, multi-faceted, personal documentary about pop art in New York City in the 60s, her childhood, her parents and her family’s relationship to art, one piece of art in particular.

Ever since humans applied paint to cave walls some 40,000 years ago, people have debated the question, “What is art?” “Brillo Box 3c Off” addresses this question, as well as the ongoing controversy over who, or what, determines what art is worth. Skyler’s story revolves around pop artist Andy Warhol’s practice of re-creating the design of cardboard Brillo Boxes, in wood, and calling them art. In one of the film’s many archival interview clips, Warhol is asked why he doesn’t simply create art that is original instead of copying other’s works. Warhol, nonchalantly, and with easy candor, replies that it’s just easier to do. Warhol, notorious for his artistic appropriation, is probably best know for his paintings of Campbell’s Soup cans. To this end, one critic, upon attending one of Warhol’s shows quipped, “Is this an art gallery or Gristedes’ warehouse?”

Skyler’s parents purchased one of Warhol’s Brillo boxes for one-thousand dollars in 1969. Her father had the good sense to request that Warhol sign it. Warhol obliged, in red crayon. The family kept their Brillo box for a while, but Sklyer’s father, Martin, eventually sold it in order to purchase other art that he liked. Skyler traces the journey of her family’s Brillo box as it traveled from owner to owner over the years, eventually selling, at auction, for over three million dollars.

Skyler and editors Jeanna French and Geof Bartz have seamlessly blended archival footage of Warhol, Skyler’s family snap shots, animation, re-creations and modern day interviews with high profile experts in the world of contemporary art. The film’s most interesting sections are interviews Skyler conducted with her parents, Martin and Rita, each of whom has different feelings about the decision to sell their, “Who knew it would ever be so valuable?” Brillo box.

Brillo Box 3c Off” will have its premiere on August 7 on HBO. In addition, the documentary will be available on HBO on Demand, HBO GO, HBO NOW and affiliated portals.


About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on July 30, 2017, in Documentary, HBO, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Alexis Rupert

    I never understood why Andy Warhol was considered so great! I guess I should watch!! Oddly enough, I just read today that Alice Cooper found a painting that Warhol had given him (Cooper had forgotten about it and stuffed it in a storage locker) and now it could be worth $10 million dollars.

    • unpaidfilmcritic

      Thanks for the comment, Alexis. The debate about Warhol, and art in general, will go on, probably forever, which I think is good! Oh, and if you have a moment, since you live in Binghamton, watch the documentary, “My Kid Could Paint That.” You’ll see how it plays into the question of “What is art?”

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