Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
Andy Warhol’s experimental cinema always has a way of making you feel like you’re the only sober person at a party full of raging drunks, but if you’re prepared you’ll see this magnificent opus for the grand work that it is. Two separate reels play simultaneously, switching between soundtracks from one to the other as we observe a multitude of residents at the Chelsea Hotel. The film was originally supplied with the freedom of letting individual projectors the choice of which reels to show together and which audio track to follow, the options including Nico in her kitchen, Brigid Berlin fussing about her room, Mary Woronov hilariously going after her girlfriends, Edie Sedgwick, Ingrid Superstar,International Velvet and a whole slew of others. Each sequence goes on so much longer than you need it to, thoroughly examining the improvisational charisma of its subjects who absolutely soak up the attention and stay completely sunk into every moment on camera. The degraded sound quality is hard to deal with for three and a half hours, but the photography is stunning, particularly when it gets to some gorgeously shot colour sequences. It is not for everybody, but if you didn’t know that before you sat down to it you get what you deserve; regardless of how much you enjoy it, this is a vitally important cultural record both of a time and of an artistic movement, and is interesting to watch for the raw presentation of the culture that would eventually go mainstream in movies like Midnight Cowboy.