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A Void in A Walk Into The Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory (Esther Robinson, 2007) October 5, 2008

Posted by Richard Bolisay in .MOV, Biopic, Docu, Indie Sine, Queer.

Directed by Esther Robinson
All black and white footage by Danny Williams

In a way it resembles Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There in dissecting the image of a man, the (de)mystification of his existence, except that the figure being examined is no more than a dirt under Dylan’s thumb – – Danny Williams, a lowly drifter in the Warhol Factory who disappeared in 1966, believed to have been drowned in Boston Bay, and whose alleged contribution to the group remains enigmatic, if not heavily unrecognized. Esther Robinson, his niece, introduces us to him with as little knowledge as we do, but with more interest – – who would even care about the faceless names in the rolling credits of every film? – – and with more emphasis on a removed character, his actions that may well be forgotten and fumed in the vast expanse of twentieth century art, which are only as alive as a falling rain in Sahara.

Robinson autopsies not the dead body but the dead memories, all coming from the brood of Warhol’s psychedelic factory – – Brigitte Berlin, Gerard Malanga, Paul Morissey, Billy Name, Don Nameth, John Cale, Chuck Wein – – and Williams’ relatives, to evoke a startling contrast between the two camps: the fidgety, inconsistent accounts of the former and the bare emotional heed of the latter. The best and worst of times that Williams chose to put himself in, Warhol’s lover, Warhol’s light and setman, Warhol’s flyleaf, chewed him hard, and as Robinson discovers her uncle’s short pieces, comparable to those years’ frantic offspring of art with their technical sophistication, we also feel that tinge of regret, of wishful longing that somehow the man with such dreams would find a way to escape his cloudy prison and lead a less glamorous life on his own. The film connects the dots, and the filmmaker herself also adds more dots to reach a conclusion that avoids further probe – – a deadend – – because inside the box of lies is lies themselves, scattered in every molecule of truth, and neither personal interest nor cultural bandwagon can ever stir it awake – – it is random, luckless fate, Danny Williams and the like are all casualties of the era, only time can help them and set them free.

Pop culture never dies; it is an insane socio-political arena. In its gnarled gaudy fences, dreams are built and hopes are crossed. A Walk Into The Sea manages not only to trespass the muddy waters of that bygone age but also the psyche of its subject – – imperfect, incomplete, insufficient, like all truisms are. If we crave for meaning because it makes us happy, does the thought of just being a tiny speck in the universe of allusive oxymorons enough to do the same? No, because even in death equality doesn’t exist.

*3rd .MOV International Digital Film Festival, Bacolod, Dumaguete, Iloilo, Manila (Robinson’s Galleria), September 20 – October 7, 2008.


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