Tuesday, 22 January 2013
Andy Warhol - Vinyl
VINYL is staged in what seems to be a corner of Andy's Factory loft, where a knot of S&M kidnappers, languid dilettantes, plainclothesmen and JD's act out Burgess' fable of a thug's "cure" through mind control. The moralizing of Burgess' novel gets instantly burned away in the wake of a kooky combination of elegant minimalist mise-en-scene, rough-trade heavy breathing, and the usual Warholian giggling at seemingly blithe freaks and damaged goods
Some of the picture lags under the burden of Ronald Tavel's clunky sixties-off-Broadway writing, but the first sequence is sheer amazement--climaxing with the droog Gerard Malanga's motto-delivering monologue (a pinnacle among Warhol is-this-supposed-to-be-bad? scenes) and his nutty chicken dance to Martha and the Vandellas' "Nowhere to Hide"--played all the way through, twice. (The start-up of rendition #2 gets the movie's biggest laugh.)
As always in Warhol, the stasis of the image gives the picture the feeling of a window onto eternity. And the combination of extreme glamour and fox-in-the-henhouse cruelty, framed in compositions that recall heads in a vise, suggests the excitement this work must have had for an ambitious young Bavarian actor-playwright named Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
matthew wilder (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The claustrophobia is infectious, and relief comes as the camera pulls back to a medium shot of Victor lifting weights in the center of the frame. The foreground is blasted with light; a man in a suit sits in the bottom left corner of the screen and watches Victor silently. Vinyl marks the first significant appearance in a Warhol film by Edie Sedgwick, who remains perched on a trunk in the bottom right corner of the screen. Luminous in a black mini dress and leather thigh-high boots, Edie chain-smokes in a slight stupor.
Because of the unblinking gaze of the single shot, one is able to jump around to different scenes while absorbing the entirety of what’s there. Sedgwick is lit the brightest, her curious, girlish demeanor juxtaposed against the fragmented, decapitated bodies in the background as they drip wax on the captured boy whose head rears back, mouth agape in pleasure. Masculinity ebbs and flows around Sedgwick; she gratefully accepts a bump as it finds its way around, then watches innocently as one of the men peels back the saran wrap and shoves his fist into the boy’s mouth. Edie flutters her colossal lashes, unmoved by the spectacle. One 2009 review states that Sedgwick steals the show. Of that I am unsure, though Vinyl would surely not function as it does without her. The film’s explicit images are softened by her juvenile, impish beauty.
The dreamlike pace and subdued energy of Vinyl is suffused with febrile, sadistic pleasure; it is pure vouyerism, most certainly Warholian as the faces of the cast shine, dazed, lacking any traces of inhibition. Now 40 years past the Stonewall riots, it is remarkable to watch Warhol and his entourage so at home in their sexuality.
It is a privilege to glimpse into this moment in time so rarely seen on film. Vinyl is an artifact of a progressive, avant-garde movement that needs to be seen.