Sunday, April 3, 2011

Vinyl - English Language Review

(USA, 1965)
by Andy Warhol

”Vinyl” probably isn't Warhol's most adventurous picture, but it has definitely is a strange, surprising and slightly disturbing movie. Not in the least, it bears the distinction of being the first adaptation of Anthony Burgess' novel "A Clockwork Orange", which was adapted more faithfully, more successfully, but also to a much bigger controversy, by Stanley Kubrick in 1971. Both movies begin with an extreme close-up of their protagonist (Gererd Malanda here, Malcolm McDowell in Kubrick's film), after which the camera slowly moves backward to reveal the entire set.

From Burgess novel, "Vinyl" only takes the basic story. The characters names and identities are changes, as well as the setting. Warhol turns "A Clockwork Orange" into a story about urban perversion, about sadists in vinyl suits and the attraction and obsession with drugs, violence and (popular) music. These elements are also in Burgess' novel in a way, but they are part of a bigger picture. The novel questions the human nature and talks about free will, something which Warhol's characters seem to lack - they are lost from the beginning and live in oblivion, their only goal being to satisfy their basic needs and desires.

The film itself is actually a recording of a stage performance. The sets are theatrical and the movie is composed out of only two shots, both lasting about 30 minutes. However, "Vinyl" is not filmed theater and Warhol's direction is the star of the picture. The camera doesn't move very much: a few inches to the left, than to the right, a slight zoom in, then out... Warhol gives us a single perspective to the story - slightly from above the actors' heads - and carefully arranges characters and objects in the frame, while the edges of the frame usually conceal various elements: in front, we see Gerard Malanga who is in the lead. To his left, there is the beautiful Edie Sedgwick, who doesn't say a single line throughout the picture. Right behind them, we see the droogs and, occasionally, their victims. And in the back, a few sadists that will give Malanga the Warhol version of the Ludovico treatment in the second half of the picture. It should be obvious that "Vinly"was conceived and executed as a cinematic experience and not as a theatrical one.

There are other "innovations" in Warhol's picture: the credits are spoken by an off-screen narrator (something that he probably stole from Godard's "Contempt") and there are several musical interludes, where the characters start dancing (mostly to the song „Nowhere to Run”, from Martha and the Vandellas). But "Vinyl" is an interesting picture because of the way Warhol's direction turns theater into cinema and for its nihilist, postmodern deconstruction of Burgess' text (which I highly recommend, by the way).

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