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USA 1972
Directed by
John Palmer / David Weisman
91 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Ciao Manhattan

Ciao! Manhattan began life as "Stripped and Strapped" a film project of a Factory splinter group composed of John Palmer, David Weisman, Genevieve Charbin, Chuck Wein, Bob Margouleff, Gino Piserchio and various other hangers-on. Shot between April and August 1967 it charted the glamorous lives of Edie Sedgwick and fellow Warhol star, Paul America. As drug-addled as the lives it depicted the shoot spun out of control with both Sedgwick and America going missing and the film's backers, Bob Margouleff's parents, pulling out.

Palmer and Weisman decided to restructure the script to include the previously shot footage as flashback sequences to tell Sedgwick's tragic story through the fictional character, Susan Superstar. In December of 1970 they resumed shooting in a mansion in Arcadia, California; for a month they shot Edie as Susan, a drug casualty recounting her (Edie's) past. In 1971 Ciao! Manhattan went into post-production and in November that year, shortly before the film's release Edie died of a barbituate/alcohol overdose. The film ends with real footage of Sedgwick's actual marriage to Michael Post and the newspaper headline: "Edie, Andy's star of '65, is dead at 28", clearly interpellated after main filming had been completed. The resulting mix is,at least for those interested in such things, a fascinating mixture of art and life that is tragically symptomatic of its place and times and one of the most authentic filmic documents of the period.

Sedgwick came from a West Coast Establishment family that had a long history of mental illness. Her brother Minty committed suicide in 1964 whilst her other brother, Bobby, also troubled by psychiatric problems crashed his motorcycle into a bus on New Year's Eve of the same year and died two weeks later. Edie herself had periods of incarceration in mental institutions before finding herself in 1965 introduced to Andy Warhol and The Factory scene. Warhol rapidly latched onto Edie and commissioned screenplays for her (the Velvet Underground's Femme Fatale is apparently about her and she was also apparently the inspiration for Dylan's Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat). As was depicted in Factory Girl, 2006, a film that had the look but none of the substance that makes Ciao! Manhattan so compelling, Warhol, as he became increasingly lauded, lost interest in Edie and the effect was devastating on her.

Ciao! Manhattan captures the two Edies, one the glamorous '60s celebrity (the black and white sequences), the other the post-Warholian wreck (the colour sequences, with Sedgwick doing a very convincing impersonation of her drug-sozzled self) in an unusually poignant, sometimes painful, sometimes funny and always irreverent way with a Zeitgeist appropriate soundtrack. The roughly collaged, reality-blurring intermingling of fact and fiction makes it one of the best documents of the times there is.




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