Danny Williams was a young, talented filmmaker and member of Warhol’s Factory who one night mysteriously vanished. The absorbing documentary A Walk Into The Sea: Danny Williams And The Warhol Factory is made by Williams’ niece, Esther Robinson, who tracks Williams’ last years with Warhol’s all-consuming group before his disappearance.
With interviews from Warhol superstars Paul Morrissey, Billy Name, Brigit Berlin, Chuck Wein, Gerard Malanga and John Cale, Robinson pieces together the fateful life of her uncle before his unexplained disappearance in the 1960s. Danny was an ex-lover of Warhol’s, a talented experimental filmmaker, a depressive drug-addict and ingenious lighting designer for the Velvet Underground.
The doc is a splendid, elegiac portrait of an artist who got lost in the shuffle of one of the biggest art scenes — an intriguing balance of interviews, family confessions and excerpts of Williams’ inventive cinematic gems.
What’s particularly fascinating is the insight into the Factory and its various sexual and power dynamics. Williams was a quiet, observant presence in the studio, but turned out to be a favourite of Warhol’s. They were lovers for a period and Warhol even let him use his prized Bolex camera. But as Williams’ drug use increased, he fell from favour with Warhol and others and was eventually ostracized.
The Factory is depicted as far from a pleasant and cooperative haven for artists. The doc exposes the unpalatable way in which Warhol and others played people off of each other. Morrissey, himself, is quite terse and the film leads you to wonder whether the environment had anything to do with Williams’ depression and evanescence.
Robinson also turns the camera on her family and shows that a domineering mother combined with Williams’ homosexuality might have pushed him to suicide or to simply just run away.
An interview with doc legend Albert Maysles (Williams edited one of his early TV shows) highlights his creative and technical talent. His arresting film creations are splattered throughout the movie and show a complex mix of slow-motion footage and freeze-frames all done within the camera.
Ultimately, A Walk Into the Sea (Tue, Apr 24 at 9:45pm and Apr 26 at 4:15pm at Isabel Bader) shows the sadness and potential of Williams’ life. Robinson succeeds in making a touching paean to her uncle and an impressive look at an unsung and mysterious artist.