Sunday, September 4, 2011

Vinyl (Warhol. 1965)

"Edie Sedgwick..."


One of the most frustrating things about the 1077 would have to be the "art films" that the author threw in for the purpose of torturing the book's readers. Do not get me wrong, I have enjoyed watching some things like Wavelength and Hold Me While I'm Naked. But some films have been a little on the too unconventional to be good list.

At this point in my life I have seen worse and stranger films than Andy Warhol's Vinyl, but I cannot say that improved my veiwing experience. The film is the pop-artist's interpretation of Anthony Burgess' "A Clockwork Orange" and was made six years before the much more famous Kubrick version. Why is Vinyl not as memorable as the widely known and accepted 70's adaptation? The answer to that question is easy - Warhol's version sucks.

Vinyl does follow the basic story of "A Clockwork Orange". Victor is a troubled youth who is taken in and made subject to a terrible experiment that makes him submissive to violence. If left at this, the movie would have been kind of neat, but poor production quality and significant artistic liberties make this an unusual and uncomfortable experience.

In this film, the camera hardly moves. All of the characters exist is the same small space and world. Warhol's camera is the dictator over what is important, and it never allows the viewer to get a full sense of what is going on. This creates a cramped and almost unwatchable series of events that are sort of explained, yet hardly audible.

The acting is almost laughably bad. The cast is made up of Andy Warhol's Factory regulars, and I would be surprised if any of them knew how to properly play a character. Some names that may shout out to art snobs are Gerard Malanga (in the lead role) and Ondine (as Scum Baby). Watching these "famous" socialite figures bumble through their lines is sometimes hilarious. You can hear voices off screen feeding lines to the actors. If they forget what they are saying they will just stop and move on to the next part. It is unbelievable that Vinyl got as far as it did in production.

But that ties in to what makes Vinyl sort of interesting. This is not a film that was rehearsed ahead of time. The actors did not know their lines or cues or anything before Warhol put the camera on them and shouted action. Heck, it does not even have an opening or ending sequence of credits. All we open and close to is Warhol yelling the names of the cast and crew from off camera.

There is also a very strange homosexual sadist scene around the end of the picture. I cannot confirm or deny whether or not the source material contained any sexual undertones, but Warhol must have seen them in there somewhere. I am not sure why they decided that leather masks and wax burning was the way to go, but I remember the torture scene in the novel to be a bit less...weird.

One positive note about Vinyl is that the audience gets to see the beautiful Edie Sedgwick throughout the entirety of the action. She serves as almost a part of the set. She does not speak, but she smokes and dances and forces the audience to pay attention to her. It is no doubt that Warhol wanted her to be a star. She has a mesmerizing quality about her. Knowing the story of her tragic life and death, it was almost sad to see her first on-screen appearance. She did not look as though she knew what she was getting into with the Factory. Even if she did, she was out of place.

Vinyl is not the least entertaining movie that I have ever seen, but I cannot understand why it has been deemed significant. Yes, an Andy Warhol telling of "A Clockwork Orange" might seem interesting to the everyday moviegoer - but the horrible acting, sound quality and direction makes the whole thing not worth the time.

If this film had been directed by anybody else, I doubt the public would have ever even heard of it. I would have been okay with that. Pop-art and the fifteen minutes of fame may be the good things that Andy Warhol brought to the world, but Vinyl is a bad movie. I would rather look at the soup can for 70 minutes....

Vinyl: F

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