A Walk Into The Sea: Danny Williams And The Warhol Factory

"Excellent"

A Walk Into The Sea: Danny Williams And The Warhol Factory Review


Do we need another film about Andy Warhol and the factory? The answer, on seeing Esther B. Robinson's A Walk into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory, is yes -- sort of. Robinson's film is a dreamy sort of mystery, a manhunt where the thing being hunted is not a body but a personality, one that seems to have gone missing over the years, painted over in other peoples' memories. It's extraordinary in a wanton sort of way, beautiful and ultimately purposeless, which, come to think of it, pretty much sums up Warhol and Co.

Robinson's family connection to the story is tenuous but intriguing. Her uncle, Danny Williams, was a bright young kid from Massachusetts with a promising future who, after a brief flurry of creative activity in Manhattan, disappeared after a family gathering in 1966. His body was never found, but it was widely assumed he drowned in Boston Bay, whether by accident or design. By happenstance, decades later Robinson happened to be working at the Warhol Foundation for the Arts when her connection was discovered and she was directed to a Warhol archivist who had unearthed a collection of 20 silent short films which were similar to but quite different from Warhol's other work and were marked "Danny Williams," who nobody knew much about.

Before seemingly burning out, Williams seemed to be someone to watch. Venerable documentary icon Albert Maysles talks about how Danny edited the Maysles' brothers' first film while still in his early twenties, a pretty impressive achievement. In 1965, Danny dropped out of Harvard and moved to Manhattan, where he fell in with the Factory group, that vagabond band of name-droppers, dilettantes, addicts, busybodies, and the occasional genius. It was all lorded over by the permanently nonplussed, bewigged Warhol, whose ineffable blankness became the tabula rasa upon which all the Factory denizens projected their wants and needs.

Fresh-faced Williams dropped into this seething ferment of explosive creativity and corrosive jealousy and what happened next is hotly debated between the cavalcade of bold-face talking heads who come on -- Billy Name, John Cale, Paul Morrissey, Brigid Berlin -- to argue who did what and who did who. Like a high school clique, they don't seem to be able to help themselves, falling into old disputes and accusations as though no time has passed. By weight of accumulation, Robinson is able to piece together that Williams was most likely Warhol's lover and the creative mind behind the revolutionary strobe-light shows that accompanied Warhol's famous Exploding Plastic Inevitable happenings, no matter how much Morrissey (whose control-freak jealousy still rings out loud all these decades later) dismissively denies it. Although the details are hard to piece together, it seems clear that Williams -- widely described as a clean-cut Cambridge kid who ends up on speed and burning the candle at both ends -- was chewed up and spit out by the Factory, his contributions purposefully forgotten by those who encircled Warhol and pined for their own 15 minutes of reflected glory.

Robinson wisely takes a cue from Williams himself and incorporates much of his footage into her wispy and fleeting narrative. The black and white films themselves have a specific and avant-garde allure, especially for the time, showcasing a more personalized viewpoint than the standard Factory film output, with more dramatic angles, artful lighting and stuttering jump-cuts. Robinson's style is a similarly ineffable one, low-lit and moody, as ultimately mysterious as its subject.

A Walk into the Sea is, however, crystal-clear on its refusal to add another brick to the wall of celebrity hype around Warhol and the Factory, showing instead a group that acted less like artists and more like viciously bitchy courtiers, willing to sacrifice any and all to gain the great one's favor. It's a bracing reminder of the impermanence of memory and the ease with which one can be simply written out of history. As to whether Williams' disappearance and probable suicide put a damper on Warhol's mood, one interviewee puts it as blunt as possible, "Andy's just being Andy, which is not giving a fuck."

Reviewed at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival.



A Walk Into The Sea: Danny Williams And The Warhol Factory

Facts and Figures

Run time: 75 mins

In Theaters: Friday 14th December 2007

Distributed by: Arthouse Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Fresh: 19 Rotten: 5

IMDB: 6.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Esther B. Robinson

Producer: Esther B. Robinson, Doug Block, Tamra Raven

Starring: Callie Angell as Herself, Brigid Berlin as Herself, as Himself, as Himself, Nat Finkelstein as Himself, Gerard Malanga as Himself, as Himself, as Himself, as Himself, Ronald Nameth as Himself, Jeff Scher as Himself, Harold Stevenson as Himself, Chuck Wein as Himself, as Himself, Nadia Williams as Herself

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Advertisement
Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Sing Movie Review

Sing Movie Review

The quality of the animation in this musical comedy may not be up to Pixar...

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.