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

New Movies

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The kill-or-die scenario that this movie hinges on isn't something new; it's been used in...

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

With the more dumbed-down title Fast & Furious 8 outside of North America, this overcrowded...

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

British writer-director Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea) is an expert at digging beneath the...

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

Julian Barnes' Booker Prize-winning novel is adapted into a remarkably intelligent, gently involving film anchored...

The Boss Baby Movie Review

The Boss Baby Movie Review

There isn't a lot of subtlety in this madcap animated comedy, which is more aimed...

Advertisement
City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

After the latest incarnation of Dredd, director Pete Travis shifts gears drastically for this complex...

Going in Style Movie Review

Going in Style Movie Review

This is only technically a remake of the iconic 1979 film starring movie icons George...

Graduation Movie Review

Graduation Movie Review

Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) recounts another staggeringly detailed...

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

This sci-fi thriller is so visually stunning that it deserves to be mentioned in the...

Free Fire Movie Review

Free Fire Movie Review

Basically a 90-minute shoot-out, there isn't a lot to this movie. British filmmaker Ben Wheatley...

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds the...

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.