To answer three quick questions. No, I’d never seen Chelsea Girls before. Yes, we saw it “properly” (with simultaneous twin projections.) And, yes, we stayed for the whole thing (about 3.5 hours. . .each “performance” is slightly different in length.)
I had some revelations. One was that whoever was running the camera (Warhol? Morrissey? Someone else? We’ll never know.) was, at times, a brilliant cameraman. Also, while I respect the overall gestalt of the concept of uninterrupted long takes of full reels of film. . .if you aren’t on drugs, sometimes an editor is a good idea. Also also, much like “2001” this is, indeed, a good “trip” movie, as it builds in strangeness and, in fact, closes with a beautiful (Exploding Plastic Inevitable) sound and light show. The last reel was called “The Trip” in the original program notes — probably a bad one as it consists solely of a woman weeping.
Biggest revelation: one of the things I like about the whole Factory shtick is that many of these people were locals. Like Ondine, the Lenny Bruce-esque angry homosexual with the heavy Hell’s Kitchen accent. What hit me about midway through is that the closest thing we have to a current Factory coterie is (now bear with me) the Howard Stern Wack Pack.
Who are the stars of The Chelsea Girls? An obese lesbian drug dealer. A flamboyant and violent homosexual with a mile-a-minute mouth who pretends he is the Pope. A spaced-out lisping skinny kid so stoned he can barely speak but likes to get undressed and “just groove on myself.” A dominatrix who gives a news report. A drag queen who sings while others laugh at her. An overbearing mother. A bald homosexual who stutters. And, filling out the edges, plenty of attractive young women without anything to say.
I mean. . .come on!
I’m glad we saw this last night, but I wouldn’t force it on anybody. (Ann remarked that it must have been a huge influence on John Waters — no arguement there — and it reminded her at times of Grey Gardens. . .but this may’ve been just because most of the time people were sitting on beds.)