directed by Andy Warhol & Paul Morrissey
USA 1966

 

What is The Chelsea Girls? It is Warhol's most ambitious work to date. It is also probably his most important work to date. It is an epic movie-novel. [...] I know no other film, with the exception of The Birth of a Nation, in which such a wide gallery of people has been presented as in this film. We don't always understand what they are talking about, only short fragments of conversations really reach us clearly. As the time goes, this gallery of people and lives grows into a complex human hive. The film in its complex and overlapping structure, in its simultaneity of lives before our eyes, comes closest to Joyce. Forgive me this sacrilegious comparison - really, this is the first time that I dare mention Joyce in connection with cinema. This is the first time that I see in cinema an interesting solution of narrative techniques that enable cinema to present life in the complexity and richness achieved by modern literature.

The Chelsea Girls has a classic grandeur about it, something from Victor Hugo. Its grandeur is the grandeur of its subject, the human scope of its subject. And it is a tragic film. The lives that we see in this film are full of desperation, hardness and terror. It's there for everybody to see and to think about. Every work of art helps us to understand ourselves by describing to us those aspects of our lives which we either know little of or fear. It's there in black on white before our eyes, this collection of desperate creatures, the desperate part of our being, the avant garde of our being.

[...]

There is the girl who walks from scene to scene crying, real tears, really hurt; a girl, under LSD probably, who isn't even aware, or only half aware that she is being filmed; the "priest" who goes into a fit of rage (real rage) and slaps the girl right and left (a real slap, not the actor's slap) when she begins to talk about God - in probably the most dramatic religious sequence ever filmed. Toward the end, the film bursts into color - not the usual color-movie color but a dramatized, exalted, screaming red color of terror.

[...]

The terror and hardness that we see in The Chelsea Girls is the same terror and hardness that is burning Vietnam; and it's the essence and blood of our culture, of our ways of living: This is the Great Society.

Excerpts from Jonas Mekas' Review in Movie Journal HERE

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DVD Review: Raro Video - Region 0 - PAL

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Distribution

Raro Video

Region 0 - PAL

Runtime 3:14:36 (4% PAL speedup)
Video

16:9 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.34 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Subtitles English, Italian
Features Release Information:
Studio: Raro Video

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen letterboxed - 16:9

Edition Details:
• Scenes from the Life of Andy Warhol by Jonas Mekas
• a videocosa by Enrico Ghezzi
• Interview with Achille Bonito Oliva
• Interview with Mario Zonta
• Paul Morrissey interviews Jonas Mekas

DVD Release Date:
Digipack

Chapters 16

 

Comments:

Raro Video's release of Andy Warhol's "Chelsea Girls" is quite expensive and hard to get, but worth every penny. This beautifully designed edition presents the film in its original split screen form. "Chelsea Girls" consists of 12 half-hour episodes and this disc shows them side-by-side as according to the instructions of the Museum of Modern Art and the Andy Warhol Foundation. Now the choice of which episodes are juxtaposed which each other (as well as which is run with sound) was always left to the projectionist. Here we get juxtapositions that work very well with each other and alternate soundtracks in the right moments.

The image quality of Raro's release is very good, while not quite stupendous. Considering that "Chelsea Girls" was shot on 16mm, the overall job is a fine one, even though I'm sure that an official release by the Warhol Foundation would improve on this. Still we can be happy to get fine contrasts, a good amount of detail and a relatively sharp image. Warhol plays around a lot with focus, light and (in the latter segments) color and so some of the distortions are intentional.
 

The English soundtrack is in 2.0. Dialogue is mostly audible, even though there are some moments when it drowns a bit in background noise. A supplement which I applaud are the optional English and Italian subtitles, which help in some of the scenes were dialogue is more difficult to hear.

The film itself is featured on the dual-layered first disc, whereas the single-layered second disc is filled with fascinating bonus material. We actually get a complete second movie here, Jonas Mekas' "Scenes From the Life of Andy Warhol", which is a brilliant and very moving film in its own right. There is also a so-called "videothing" by Enrico Ghezzi (actually a video essay), as well as interviews with the Italian Warhol experts Achille Bonito Oliva and Mario Zonta, plus a video in which co-director Paul Morrissey interviews avant-garde veteran Jonas Mekas.

Another much appreciated extra is a thick bi-lingual booklet featuring writing by Silvia Baraldini and Mario Zonta, illustrated with many beautiful stills from the movie.

For some dubious reason the Warhol Foundation does not approve of Raro Video's releases of Warhol's films, yet at least the Italian label is giving us these wonderful films on DVD, whereas the Foundation sits still. I don't think that we can expect any "official" releases in the near future, which is why I recommend this DVD wholeheartedly. It may be expensive and you may have to order from xploitedcinema.com HERE, but this masterpiece of masterpieces is worth every effort and investment.

NOTE there is also a 8-disc Warhol Box (including The Chelsea Girls) from Xploited HERE.

 - Stan Czarnecki

 



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Distribution

Raro Video

Region 0 - PAL




 

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