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Chronicles: Family Diaries I (1970)

 -  Documentary
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Brigid Berlin ...
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Shirley Clarke ...
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Robert Mapplethorpe ...
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You've never spent a night with people like these . . .
7 July 2008 | by (Scotland, United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

The overall impression created by this footage is a giant mess. But it is the gems hidden in the mess that make it important.

Basically you have a bunch of people hanging out and sounding off. Someone (Michael Auder) seems to be holding a video camera which records it all with very low quality sound and vision. Occasionally subtitles have been added to make it more comprehensible, but some of these are only barely readable.

But the film is of great interest to researchers. Or especially to people interested in the work of Shirley Clarke.

People featured in this late night free-for-all are Clarke herself. Brigid Berlin (also known as Brigid Polk), artist, and leading socialite of Warhol fame. You may have seen her in Warhol's Chelsea Girls or some of John Waters' films. Then there's Robert Mapplethorpe, leading cult photographer (his photo of Warhol sold for a small fortune). Actor-director Roscoe Lee Browne. And of course Shirley Clarke, Oscar winning experimental filmmaker video pioneer.

The conversations are rambling. Clarke reminisces in quite an illuminating way over her work in Agnes Varda's film Lions Love (... and Lies). It is a very different from the formal session she does in Rome Burns: A Portrait of Shirley Clarke, when she answers questions to a professional interviewer.

Among the other more challenging late-night topics are, If a star needs drugs to get through a scene, who pays? It is like a moving postcard of another era. You keep watching, entranced by the stories (and the telling), but eventually wondering, are they just spraffing? Brigid does a long explanation of how she avoids looking fat when she's getting into to bed to get f*cked (her phrase). Then there's a disconnected story of a get rich scheme, penguins, anchovies and 20,000 used bowling balls. If you've ever spent an all-nighter with people off their faces talking entertainingly, you get the picture. This is the random relaxation of people who normally 'perform' if a camera is in the vicinity. Perhaps you will have watched (Warhol's) Velvet Underground and Nico, wondering if they will get a song together? Same vibe. Keep hoping.

But you've never spent a night with people like this.


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