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Vinyl (1965)


So experimental that the entire internet has 2 movie covers.
So experimental that the entire internet has 2 movie covers... not promising

Genre: Experimental/Avant-Garde Sci-Fi

Starring: Gerard Malanga (HarlotHedy)

Directed By: Andy Warhol (BlowjobBlue Movie)

Overview: Andy Warhol’s black-and-white, pretty-much single-take, pretty-much static-shot, pretty-much hour-long experimental film based on Anthony Burgess’s novel, A Clockwork Orange.

art noun

: something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings

:  an occupation requiring knowledge or skill <the art of organ building>

:  the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects; also :  works so produced

 And then there's Vinyl
And then there's Vinyl

Let it be known that I love Modern Art. When I travel to another city, the first ‘To Do’ on my list is to find the local Modern Art Museum and visit it - usually several times. Yet, thus far, not counting the creative expletives and vitriol-filled rants that my dear readers get to experience, I am finding no enjoyable reason to watch any of the non-commercial Experimental / Avant-Garde films that exist within the pages of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book. I’ve reviewed and disliked 1922’s La Souriante Madame Beudet, the ‘important’ Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising (1964) and especially Michael Snow’s Wavelength (1967) - an insightful review that I highly recommend, if I do say so myself. Today I toss on another reeking log to fuel the fire of fetid film opinion with Andy Warhol’s Vinyl.

Much like the source material, the story of Vinyl is that of a young, music-loving, society-reviling thug who violently crosses the criminal line, gets arrested, and signs up for a re-education program that punishes him back to goodness with a twist of irony. For those of you who’ve not read Burgess’s novel or seen Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, I recommend it before venturing into the near-nonsense that is Vinyl. Bolstered by context, Vinyl should become more palatable to its viewers.

That being said, unless I had known ahead of time that Vinyl was an interpretation of Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, I still wouldn’t have guessed as much until at least half-way through the 63 minute run time. Even then, I’m not sure if I ever could have made the connection. The reasons are plentiful. Partly it’s because of a frequent lack of narrative, but mainly it’s because the only setting in the six-foot wide mise-en-scène is a chair on the left, and a steamer trunk on the right, complete with a woman (Edie Sedgwick) silently sitting on it while chain-smoking. When our anti-hero Victor (Gerard Malanga) picks a fight, it’s six inches from the chair he’s arrested in front of and forced to sit in for his medically supervised re-education. Vinyl forces us to imagine most of the action. I’ll dare admit that this visual confusion is much the point of Vinyl, so I won’t dump on this aspect. There’s so much more to make this unwatchable…

No, SORRY. There ISN'T a good shot.
No, SORRY. There ISN'T a good shot.

The first problem with Vinyl isn’t the subject matter, it's the pacing. We open on the face of Victor who then, for the next three minutes and 20 seconds, pumps iron. Later when he dances - horribly - to Martha and the Vandellas’ “Nowhere to Run”, it’s for longer than the entire 2 minute and 48 second length of the song - because it's REPEATED. Then there’s the re-education scene where Victor is made to describe the horrible scenes he’s being subjected to. This scene is extended far beyond exhausting… but at least it’s one of the few parts of Vinyl where our actors are actually telling a story.

The monotonous pacing will tax most viewers, but it won’t infuriate them – leave that to the acting and direction. Gerard Malanga’s performance is beyond subpar, and it’s perfectly in line with his supporting ‘cast’. Worse, the atrocious performances are an unrelenting, omnipresent constant throughout Vinyl. There’s a scene early on where the characters are tearing books apart. It’s painfully obvious that they are reading their lines out of the pages they’re ripping out, too lazy to have learned any lines. Later, the cop who's yelling at Victor keeps looking offscreen, stumbling over dialogue, even outright stopping to look up and read his lines off what I imagine is a cue card. Then, when the doctor makes his entrance, his eyes are constantly offscreen searching for instruction, unless he’s drinking his can of beer between lines. Even Gerard can be seen looking back and making a quiet comment to someone who’s not part of the action. This atrocious and infantile acting goes so far beyond post-modern, so far beyond the 'honest amateur' of the New Wave that it’s insulting. I know how people act when they are live, when they are capable. Andy Warhol’s Vinyl is nothing more than the horrible display of a bunch of drooling idiots pretending in front of the camera because they were bored for an hour.

Ugh, even finding these photos was tedious.
Ugh, even finding these photos was tedious.

Instead of seeing ‘film’, I see Andy Warhol’s farce, a joke on all of us that he called art, a series of frames captured on film with a bunch of stoned, drunk buffoons exporting ad-libbed laziness to make a name for themselves. Gerard repeating the words 'scum baby' 20 times in 10 minutes does not make me think I'm watching something avant-garde. It makes me want to punch him in the face.

The problem with Vinyl isn't even Vinyl. It's that some critic - I'm looking at you Marc Sigel - for the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book thought that it was important for me to see this. Marc, how dare you call Vinyl ‘fascinating’, ‘sexy’, ‘brilliant’ and ‘dynamic’. Vinyl is none of those things. Clearly you’re in on the joke and belly-laughing at keeping this vapid tripe immortalized in celluloid. If this film was 30 minutes shorter it would be just as effective at being an idiotic mess and you, dear reader, would not be getting such a long rambling rant about tedious minutiae.

I thought that going into Vinyl having read Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange would help provide the context others lacked. I thought that being a fan of Stanley Kubrick's 1971 film - and having seen it 11 times - I would be appreciative of Andy Warhol's efforts. But in Vinyl there is no effort, there is no class, and there is definitely no art whatsoever. It’s an unrehearsed, ad-libbed, lazy attempt at nothing, and for this I had to suffer. Andy Warhol’s Vinyl is more than a waste of time, it’s a stain on the endeavours of artists who try. Shame on you, Andy. You’re poisoning the well.

 Pop artist, ok. Filmmaker? Straight up douchebag.
Pop artist, ok. Filmmaker? Straight up douchebag.

Performance: 2 Cinematography: 4 Script: 3 Plot: 4 Mood: 3

Overall Rating: 32% (Keep It Off The Record)

The only reason I didn’t give Performance a rating of 1 is because it’s an experimental film so I gave it some benefit of the doubt.

The problem with Experimental film in general - when a problem exists - is how lazy their filmmakers are. If people enjoyed the craft of experimental filmmaking, they would learn and practice that craft. They would learn to make enjoyable films, or at least films that were different and interesting, thematically or technically. They wouldn't squeeze out and pinch off some shite they made when they were drunk and high and bored.

Thanks be to the names we can look to for respite, names like David Lynch, like Philip Glass, even Man Ray if that’s your thing.

But far too often we are left with early Luis Buñuel’s technical inferiority, Michael Snow's sloppy, middling drivel, and Andy Warhol's bullshit.

Stick to Andy’s pop art paintings. At least with those he doesn’t pretend what he’s doing isn’t for straight cash.

Want to see moronic art that captivated me completely? Here. Enjoy this. At least it's laughable. And it's only 6 minutes.


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Frankly, I'm surprised you didn't give it a lower rating. This is currently, and is likely to be, the only film to get a 1 out of 10 on my blog, and it didn't even deserve that. I actually went through your 10-49% category looking for List films that you gave a lower rating to, just out of curiosity. I can tell you, if you didn't already know, that Vinyl is now tied with Johnny Guitar for the third worst film from the List you have ever reviewed. It sure as hell earned it.

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