“The squares do good because they dig it. So I do bad because I dig doing bad.”
Man, this movie sucks.
Vinyl is Andy Warhol’s interpretation of Anthony Burgess’s The Clockwork Orange. Filmed in The Factory and consisting of just a few extended takes to reach its 70 minute runtime, this is what I would consider some pretty poor film making and a tremendous failure in terms of experimental cinema. The plot focuses on a man, Victor, who likes to engage in lawlessness and hedonistic actions until he is forced into extreme exposure therapy and is tortured by a series of officials in an attempt at rehabilitation. The movie is filmed entirely in one location without moving the camera, and just a handful of actors make up the entire cast.
I suppose the immediate turnoff with this film is the astoundingly low effort put into the production. The actors are inexperienced, and it almost seems that Warhol told these guys to say their lines with as little emotion as possible. You end up with this dull droning in which every line from every character sounds the same, and it really tunes you out to the whole movie. Any verbal mishaps or other mistakes are kept in the film to preserve the long shots, and it feels like an Ed Wood film without the charm. It’s almost like Warhol was on a strict time constraint to crank this out, and I really don’t see much artistic payoff for this style of film making.
I had to give myself a break halfway through the movie just to keep myself alert, which is a first for these reviews so far. Paying attention is so difficult when there’s this low production quality, a dull (and nearly incomprehensible) plot, and ultimately just nothing interesting happening on the screen. I found that the best parts of the film were when music was playing, because it gave me something to listen to that wasn’t so straining. I really attempted not to tune out to the film in hopes of achieving some greater understanding of Warhol’s vision with this one, but I didn’t find any of that upon watching. Maybe someone else could find some definite meaning in the movie, but I’m personally at a lost, so I’ll have to call it a bad movie. There’s nothing impressive about abandoning good cinematic techniques just for the sake of being contrarian.
Maybe I’m being unfair, so to give Warhol the benefit of the doubt, I’ll attempt to derive some sort of message from Vinyl because I feel it’s my obligation as a critic to do so. From what I know of Warhol’s visual art, he was attempting to change the idea of “high art” and did so by shocking the masses with his artistic portrayals of pop culture items and bringing a sense of mass production to the art world. This broke down pretension and elitism in the art world. I would assume that Vinyl is Warhol’s attempt to bring some new mindset to the cinematic world as well. By bringing his film to such a minimal production value and abandoning the flashy spectacle common in movies, I figure that Warhol is trying to challenge norms of what makes a great film. Perhaps he’s saying that you can still tell a fascinating story without good lighting, trained actors, precise editing techniques, or any other factor behind conventionally great films. If this is what he was saying, then I’m inclined to disagree, and I think anyone who watches Vinyl will disagree as well.
If you’re interested in a film adaptation of The Clockwork Orange, stick to the 1971 version by Stanley Kubrick. As for Andy Warhol, perhaps he should have stuck to painting soup cans. Vinyl is an interesting but ultimately disastrous work of experimental cinema. I have heard that Warhol made some other films which weren’t so unwatchable, but I think after what I’ve seen here, I’ll stay away from Warhol for the time being.
Films Left to Watch: 957