Ciao! Manhattan

June 4, 2008

Ciao! Manhattan [1972]
Dir. John Palmer and David Weisman
Starring: Edie Sedgwick, Wesley Hayes, Paul America

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This is a weird one. I know technically Ciao! Manhattan isn’t a good movie, so I can’t recommend it. BUT. I like the movie. The story is a mess, as the filmmakers started the film in ’67 but had to abandon it after its star, Edie Sedgwick, disappeared off the face of the earth while filming. Once they tracked her down, three years have passed. They can’t pick up filming where they left off because the whole cast is scattered across America. So they start a new narrative, one that mirrors Sedgwick’s own journey, and mix it with the old footage from ‘67, turning Ciao! Manhattan into a semi-documentary/biography of the last years of Sedgwick’s life.

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I’ve never really been interested in the whole Andy Warhol scene, and have had absolutely no interest in Sedgwick. But her story is a sad one, and the film is haunting, because Sedgwick actually seems to have some real acting talent, and a fearless spirit that the camera adores. A young woman of the 1960’s who has been trapped in a drug induced purgatory for several years, with faint glimpses in her eyes of the hope of escaping. She finally did in 1971 when she died of an overdose before the world premier of the film.

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What makes Ciao! Manhattan work, despites some of its awkward technicalities, and amateurish acting, is its raw emotional center and genuine urgency. It documents, in a hellish quality, both Sedgwick’s own personal nightmare, and the strange transition between 1967 and 1971, when rock turned into heavy metal, weed turned into cocaine, and hippies turned into Hell’s Angels.

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