Edie Sedgwick (1943-1971)
Ciao Manhattan (1972)
CIAO! MANHATTAN parallels Andy Warhol Factory star Edie Sedgwick's glory days in the late 1960s through her inevitable downfall and the tragic addiction that would take her life only weeks after filming wrapped in 1971.
TV Guide wrote:
Edie Sedgwick had been dead two years when this film came out. Unless you are a student of the Andy Warhol subculture of the 1960s, there is little to be had from this film. Sedgwick, a protege and companion of Warhol, had her 15 minutes of fame in the mid 1960s. CIAO MANHATTAN is the result of piecing together short ends of two Sedgwick vehicles. The first was begun by Chuck Wein in 1967 during the height of Sedgwick's fame. The second was begun three years later in California by John Palmer and David Weisman. In the film, Sedgwick resides at the bottom of a tented Santa Barbara pool, surrounded by giant blowups of herself. The film dwells on her dope and booze-bloated visage, and her silicone breasts. (For at least half of the film she is topless.) The movie offers some insight into Sedgwick's mind through her recollections of her glory days. It's obvious she is near the end, and her impending overdose is just around the corner in her real life, but the film only seems to exploit her tragedy.
Digitally Obsessed wrote:
What happens to you the year after you're the superstar of the year? Yes, this DVD is an opportunity to reconsider The Factory, Andy Warhol's late sixties operation from which the principal product was celebrity, manufactured for its own sake. The arbitrariness with which Andy Warhol anointed his acolytes as superstars has its own dark side: what happens to a limelight hog when their fifteen minutes are up, when there's a newer and prettier young thing coming along shoving you off the stage?
Edie Sedgwick stars in Ciao! Manhattan, and died just three months after the film's completion, at age 28, in 1972; she was more than just a Warhol creation, certainly, and her notoriety and influence persist to this day. She plays Susan, child of Los Angeles, now living on her mother's run-down estate—Susan eschews a proper bedroom and sleeps instead in the drained swimming pool, while in the house her mother (Isabel Jewell) bakes pie after pie, and Susan revisits, in her own mind, her fabulous years in New York.
The first image of Edie in the movie is startling: a beautiful, wasted, topless young woman, hitchhiking in Southern California, spilling herself into an ancient, decrepit Mercedes. It's driven by Butch (Wesley Hayes), a Houston boy figuring that he just won cosmic lotto—he brings Edie home, and finds instead that he's being groomed as Edie's next keeper, a job currently filled by Geoffrey (Geoffrey Briggs), who likes showing off his W.C. Fields impression.
The L.A. story is nothing more than a convenient framing device—this color footage provides the necessary structure for the many flashbacks, in black & white, to Susan in New York. (The supplements reveal that hours and hours of film was shot in New York in 1967, for another screenplay entirely, and only in 1972 did the filmmakers get it together to complete the project, ginning up a story that would allow them to cut something together.) There's some silly semblance of a plot, but it's the opportunity to revel with Edie in this world that's the draw of Ciao! Manhattan.
We're asked of course to blur the line between fact and fiction, for the character of Susan is just a useful contrivance for Edie and the filmmakers to talk about and show us Edie. In the flashbacks we see Edie in her New York heyday, popping lots of amphetamines, attending be-ins, appearing in Vogue and on runways, just generally being around Andy Warhol and being fabulous. There's something fascinating about all this footage, but there's something incredibly sad about it, too, knowing how many of these lives were ruined or cut short by their excesses, their potential undone essentially by their aimlessness. But this is the principal attraction of the movie: it's not a tightly told and galvanizing story, and is worth watching for the vividness with which it brings back an especially wild and mesmerizing time.
Most exhibitionists are downright modest in comparison to Edie, who seemed desperately to crave any and all attention—she spends much of her screen time topless, and her breasts are also a principal subject of discussion: "She's kinda proud of them." (Sedgwick had recently gotten relatively crude implants, and was eager to show them off.) Breaking free of New York seemed like a crucial moment for Edie, but knowing about her sad end, the wonder as you watch this may be that she stayed alive as long as she did. The filmmakers obviously have a terrific affection for their leading lady, but seeing and hearing about how her life was unraveling, at times Ciao! Manhattan can seem almost like a high-art snuff film.
Still, there's enough that's intriguing in the Warhol world to merit a look, and this is certainly more entertaining than the endless and endlessly boring movies that Warhol himself produced. It's more a tone poem about the time than anything else, but that brings with it many of its own rewards.