Another thing is happening here that involves overlapping dialogue and music plugs and split-screen images, and it’s just as fascinating: Haynes seems to be trying to find a streaming era similar to the multimedia sound-and-light shows that Warhol and his friends and “discoveries” used to stage around New York in the 60’s – the musical / dance / poetry / experimental cinema “happenings” that would include the velvet performers, alternate roles of films, projected on walls, selected audiences operated spotlights, and so on, all at the same time. Haynes and cinematographer Ed Lachman illuminate today’s interviews in the same way as Warhol’s “close-ups” with evenly toned lighting and a solid background in an old-fashioned “academy ratio” image that is closer to a square than a rectangle. The style is reminiscent of topical footage taken by Warhol and other factory-adjacent filmmakers at the time, some of which are also mentioned here.
All the different materials are treated as elements to be arranged in split-screen compositions that evoke Warhol’s “Chelsea Girls”, a quasi-documentary “experience” ideally presented in a cinema where two 16 mm film projectors can run simultaneously and cast two unrelated images side by side and let the soundtracks overlap and become dissonant, a soup of dialogue and sound. During the opening episode of the film, half of the split-screen image is an unpleasant Warhol close-up of young Lou Reed staring blankly at you for several minutes. Sometimes the adjacent split-screen panel will be filled up with pictures of what an expert witness tells you about in voice-over. Other times, you might look at images that are out of focus, from Manhattan taken from a moving vehicle, or the psychedelic rays of color that emerge when a film roll runs dry as it passes through a camera gate, or six or nine or twelve images flicker in a grid.
The film is Godardian, as in Jean-Luc, but it is also Warholian and Haynesian. If you are in the right state of mind, it is mesmerizing, brain-expanding and simply fun. And if that’s not your thing, it’s fine; part of the factory philosophy was that you should first and foremost make art for yourself and not get too stuck with what others think. “I do not have to listen to that shit,” a Los Angeles engineer told the band as they recorded the 1968s. White light / white heat. “I will register it and I will go. When you are done, come and get me.”)
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