Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Andy Warhol - Vinyl

Vinyl is a 1965 American black-and-white experimental film directed by Andy Warhol at The Factory. It is an early adaptation of Anthony Burgess' novel A Clockwork Orange, starring Gerard Malanga, Edie Sedgwick, Ondine, and Tosh Carillo, and featuring such songs as "Nowhere to Run" by Martha and the Vandellas, "Tired of Waiting for You" by The Kinks, "The Last Time" by The Rolling Stones and "Shout" by The Isley Brothers.

A film that isn't understood by many, to my knowledge, but it is a great exercise in experimental film making. Warhol makes great use of cramped space and exhausted actors to capture a feeling of in the now, on the spot, film making. Based off of A Clockwork Orange, the cramped style feels like debauchery and recklessness, devoid of a point even when given one. Ultimately it's a fun film with some talent, and had it been prepared first and put on stage, it may be celebrated like we do Samuel Beckett.
Nelson Maddaloni

Warhol's adaptation (for lack of a more shambling word) of Anthony Burgess' A CLOCKWORK ORANGE begins with a giant closeup of the glowering droog antihero, then moves backward to reveal him narcissistically preening while a crowd of poshy socialites sits blithely by. If this sounds familiar, it's because it's the same opening Stanley Kubrick designed for his version of the book--except that Warhol, working on a sub-Z budget, could only zoom backward, not track.

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 (picqueur@aol.com)

The 66-minute film is comprised of one shot, commencing with an extreme close up of Victor (Gerard Malanga) as his face moves mechanically from side to side. The only sound is his breath as it grows heavier and heavier. Slowly, the shot pulls back to reveal his golden, cherubic curls as they glisten in the light. A cigarette lingers between his full lips, and he is encased within fragments of denim and glistening leather. 

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.
Mary Hanlon


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