"Velvet Underground & Nico" (DVD)
Featuring rare footage of Velvet Underground jamming at the factory and the legendary „Exploding Plastic Inevitable“ psychedelic-lightshow by Andy Warhol. Both recorded 1966. THE VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO (A SYMPHONY OF SOUND / DIRECTOR: ANDY WARHOL): The Velvet Underground & Nico is a portrait of the group recorded during a rehearsal session at the Factory. Presumably filmed in January 1966, it shows the group rehearsing for what was probably going to be their debut the following February at Film-Makers' Cinematheque. The music is made of an instrumental piece; Nico, the German singer and actress that Warhol had introduced to the group is seated on a stool playing the tambourine while her son Ari playes at her feet. The two reels contain a large amount of wild camera movements and psychedelic style zoom shots, wich seem to indicate that this film was created to be screened, probably on a double screen, with Velvet Underground playing live. It is not hard to imagine the effect this screening could have had in a crowded and enormous theatre, in an atmosphere with a certain kind of music, wild dancing and strobe lighting. The second reel of the film, almost wanting to document the status of an alternative cultural product, records the arrival of the New York police right in the middle of the filming, following the telephone calls protesting about the noise level coming from the Factory apartment. In the scene we see an embarrassed policeman breaking in and turning off the amplifier, after wich the rehearsal is interrupted and the camera moves back to film the entire studio. This is one of the few pieces of documentary evidence of the Factory in Warhol's films, where we see Warhol while he is speaking to the police, while Velvet, Gerard Malanga, Billy Name and other regular Factory guests are hanging around. ANDY WARHOL'S EXPLODING PLASTIC INEVITABLE (FEAT: THE VELVET UNDERGROUND / DIRECTOR: RONALD NAMETH): Andy Warhol's hellish sensorium, the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, was, while it lasted, the most unique and effective discotheque environment prior to the Fillmore/Electric Circus era, and it is safe to say that the EPI has never been equaled. Similarly, Ronald Nameth's cinematic homage to the EPI stands as a parangon of excellence in the kinetic rock-show genre. Nameth, a colleague of John Cage in several mixed-media environments at the University of Illinois, managed to transform his film into something far more than a mere record of an event. Like Warhol's show, Nameth's EPI is an experience, not an idea. In fact, the ethos of the entire pop life-style seems to be synthesized in Nameth's dazzling kinaethetic masterpiece. Here, form and content are virtually synonymous, and there is no misunderstanding what we see. It's as though the film itself has exploded and reassembled in a jumble of shards and prisms. Gerard Malanga and Ingrid Superstar dance frenetically to the music of the Velvet Underground (Heroin, European Son, and a quasi-East Indian composition), while their ghost images writhe in Warhol's Vinyl projected on a screen behind. There's a spectacular sense of frantic uncontrollable energy, communicated almost entirely by Nameth's exquisite manipulation of the medium. EPI was photographed on color and black-and-white stock during one week of performances by Warhol's troupe. Because the environment was dark, and because of the flash-cycle of the strobe lights, Nameth shot at eight frames per second and printed the footage at the regular twenty-four fps. In addition he developed a mathematical curve for repeated frames and superimpositions, so that the result is an eerie world of semi-slow motion agaisnt an aural background of incredible frenzy. Colors were superimposed over black-and-white negatives and vice-versa. An extraordinary off-color grainy effect resulted from pushing the ASA rating of his color stock; thus the images often seem to lose their cohesiveness as though wrenched apart by the sheer force of the environment. Watching the film is like dancing in a strobe room: time stops, motion retards, the body seems separate from the mind. The screen bleeds onto the wall, the seats. Flak bursts of fiery explode with slow fury. Staccato strobe guns stitch galaxies of silverfish over slow-motion, stop-motion close-ups of the dancers' dazed ecstatic faces. Nameth does with cinema what the Beatles do with music: his film is dense, compact, yet somehow fluid and light. It is extremely heavy, extremely fast, yet airy and poetic, a mosaic, a tapestry, a mandala that sucks you into its whirling maelstrom. The most striking aspect of Nameth's work is the use of the freeze-frame to generate a sense of timelessness. Stop-motion is literally the death of the image: we are instantly cut-off from the illusion of cinematic life — the immediacy of motion — and the image suddenly is relegated to the motionless past, leaving in its place a pervading aurea of melancholy. The final shots of Gerard Malanga tossing his head in slow motion and freezing in several positions create a ghostlike atmosphere, a timeless and ethereal mood that lingers and haunts long after the images fade. Using essentially graphic materials, Nameth rises above a mere graphic exercise: he makes kinetic empathy a new kind of poetry.