Film Highlight: A Walk into the Sea

courtesy of the Andy Warhol Museum

Andy Warhol's Factory produced many cultural icons, including Edie Sedgwick and the Velvet Underground, but the hyper-creative, drug-fueled, often cultish environment was home to many lesser-known but equally intriguing talents, some of whom survived and others, like filmmaker Danny Williams, who died too early, denied an opportunity to define their role in the blurred realm of myth and memory. Director Esther Robinson (a St. Paul native who produced Alive TV in the mid-1990s) is Williams's niece, and in this well-crafted documentary she turns to some of the Factory's legends (Brigid Berlin, Paul Morrissey, Billy Name) as well as her own family—particularly grandmother Nadia—to discover who her Uncle Danny really was. A Harvard grad lured to New York in the early 1960s, Williams was likely Warhol's lover, but he was best known for the trippy light shows he created for VU's Exploding Plastic Inevitable show. During a visit home to Massachusetts, Williams disappeared, his car abandoned by a seaside cliff. His work as a groundbreaking filmmaker is largely unrecognized. Robinson's doc reveals an artist ahead of his time who recorded the Warhol superstars at their most luminescent. The film is also effective in busting the Factory legend, exposing the petty rivalries and confidence-killing cliques. Morrissey emerges as a Williams detractor who remains faithful to Warhol, while others, including documentarian Al Maysles, generously reveal Williams's significance. His works are defined by startling black-and-white contrast and, though silent, they pulsate and shimmer with the energy of their time. Clearly Williams, whose death remains unsolved, was more than a mere Warhol hanger-on, and this doc provides an opportunity to learn more about his talent. Robinson will be on hand to introduce her film.

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