6 September 2018



'Wedged between dark comic tragedy and documentary, there is magic flowing throughout... captures the vibe of the early Warhol Factory days better than any other.'

'A snapshot of the post-Woodstock pre-punk era and a document of one life that was swept up and shelled out by the massive cultural revolution of the '60s.'

'I got hooked on speed at the Factory, and then I had my little interlude with heroin, you know, to get off speed.'

'Speed is the ultimate, all-time high.'

The phrase 'troubled production' doesn't even begin to describe the making of this movie. Filming got underway in 1967 but the film didn't see the light of day- or the dark of a movie theatre- until 1972, after its gorgeous leading lady had passed away due to an accidental overdose of drugs.

Poor Edie Sedgwick had had problems with drugs for a long time. She was a beautiful- and, some say, talented- actress, model and rich socialite who was close friends with iconic artist, director and producer Andy Warhol in the 'Sixties.

She was a frequent visitor to The Factory, the name given to Andy's famous New York art studio where he entertained various intellectuals, celebrities, drag queens, writers, artists, bohemian types and people he liked. It was quite the cultural salon. I daresay a lot of drugs were consumed here but please don't quote me on that. I wasn't there, lol.

Edie was one of a number of people whom Warhol, the King of Pop Art, regularly used in his movies and promoted as his 'superstars.' (Like John Waters and his stable of 'Dreamlanders,' innit?) Edie starred in several of Andy's films, although his films often just had a limited release because they didn't particularly appeal to the mainstream masses. Limited appeal, limited release, I guess, if that's not too bitchy...!

Still, his oeuvres helped to make her immortal as the legend of 'Sixties counter-culture she is today. You could even say that she had her 'fifteen minutes of fame,' a phrase coined by Warhol himself, through him.

Her story of drug addiction- lovingly nurtured at the Factory- and the terrible excesses of celebrity make her a sad figure to some, though. She's the perfect example of what it means to have- and do- too much, too soon. Too much, too young.

It's not nice to see a beautiful young woman throw it all away like that, and for what? The thrill of taking a few stupid pills and washing them down with booze just to get off your face for a few hours. We all want to escape from our dreary lives but some of us really want to escape.

CIAO! MANHATTAN has a cult following because it's the last film that Edie Sedgwick, the original IT Girl and 1965's GIRL OF THE YEAR, ever made. I'm not going to lie to you guys. Yes, it's a famous film, semi-autobiographical and semi-documentary, but it's kind of a mess.

It's like a load of films got mixed up in the editing room and the editors had to put them all back together but they fucked it up, and now we're left with a mish-mash of patchwork that looks like somebody's dog had it for dinner.

Some bits, the colour bits where Edie is acting the part of Susan Superstar, a drug-addicted actress/model who's going down the tubes at a rate of knots, are great. The other bits, the bits
about some dude called Mr. Verdecchio, were utterly incomprehensible and uninteresting to me so I'll do what I always do in cases like this and pretend that those bits don't exist, lol. Instead, I'll concentrate on the bits I liked. I'm a woman. I can do flighty stuff like this if I want to.

So, the Susan Superstar bits. This hillbilly guy from the sticks called Butch- he looks like a young Keanu Reeves- is driving along the freeway one day when a topless girl, high on drugs, comes out of nowhere and begs a lift. Have all Butch's birthdays and Christmases come together? You might think so but Butch behaves like the perfect gentleman.

He delivers the semi-conscious girl to her home without taking advantage of her, though it's obvious that she's a genuine beauty. Her home is a mansion where she lives with her middle-aged harridan of a mother who's made her money in the pie business and a sort of 'carer' called Geoffrey, a total hippy with floppy blonde hair and glasses.

The irony of it all is that Geoffrey the carer doesn't care a hoot and is eager to leave his position as general dogsbody to bossy-mother-and-impossible-daughter as fast as is humanly possible. As soon as Butch appears on the scene, Geoffrey is already eyeing him up as a possible replacement for the position of Susan's minder.

Mom orders the two lads to take the insensible Susan to her 'room.' Susan 'lives' (if you can call it 'living') down one end of a massive swimming pool that's been emptied of water and has had a tent erected over Susan's part. She eats very little, boozes a lot and exists on a daily cocktail of prescription drugs- for her mental illnesses and illegal drug abuse- sanctioned by her mother and her doctors.

She's out of it most of the time and she doesn't know day from night most days. She reminisces to Butch, a captive- and horny- audience, about her wild, carefree days as a celebrity and model in New York. She really misses those fabulous whirlwind days and nights of non-stop-partying and sometimes she even imagines- or should that be hallucinates- that she's back there. It's very, very sad to witness, and Butch witnesses it all.

Interspersed between real-life footage of Andy Warhol and the Factory gang are Susan's admissions to Butch that her father was a violent abuser who's 'been trying to fuck me since I was nine.' Her brother 'Blimpy' committed suicide when he was twelve. We see her doctor-a psychiatrist?- taking advantage of her when she comes to his office.

Susan is horribly damaged, bruised, fragile. She is a broken person. She has Permanent Brain Damage from all the drugs she's taken and she's probably only taken them because she was so ill-used and abused as a child. Never underestimate the power of a shitty childhood to fuck a person up good and proper.

When Butch eventually manages to have the longed-for sex with Susan, making her late for her psychiatrist's appointment into the bargain, he realises in a staggering moment of true perception that 'she doesn't really want ME, she just wants somebody to hold onto.' For a hillbilly hick from the sticks, this is quite an insightful deduction.

The fragile Susan just wants someone to love her. The celebrity she attained as a model and glamour girl gave her what she needed for a while but it's an empty, hollow kind of adoration. It can't compare to having the backing of a loving family or a loving husband or partner or even the unconditional love of your own child.

There's a yawning great hole inside Susan. It should be filled with love, contentment and self-esteem but it's not, so she fills it with drugs and booze instead, and also with sex, with men who desire her for her fabulous looks and body but they don't give a toss about her as a person. It's obvious that if Susan keeps going on the way she is, she'll be dead before she's thirty.

Edie Sedgwick's own background of eating disorders- she was painfully thin and suffered from anorexia- and the suicide of one of her older brothers and the suspected suicide of another was as troubled and disturbing as the fictional Susan's.

A controlling, abusive father and one or more abortions only added fuel to this emotional
fire. The story of the fictional Susan and the real-life Edie can only have one conjoined ending. With all due respect to both ladies, it doesn't take a genius...

CIAO! MANHATTAN is available to buy now on Blu-Ray from SECOND SIGHT FILMS.


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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