Ciao! Manhattan  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Related e



Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Ciao! Manhattan is a 1972 American drama film starring Edie Sedgwick, one of Andy Warhol's Superstars. The film centers around the life of an Edie Sedgwick-esque character, the lure of addiction, and the quest for stardom in keeping with the times.


Film overview

Written and directed by John Palmer and David Weisman, Ciao! Manhattan is the semi-biographical tale of 1960s counterculture icon Edie Sedgwick. Ciao! follows young Susan Superstar (Sedgwick) through her tumultuous party years in Manhattan as one of Warhol's Superstars. Through actual audio recordings of Sedgwick's account of her time in Warhol's Factory in New York City, paired with clips from the original unfinished script started in 1967, Ciao! captures the complete deterioration of Sedgwick's fictional alter-ego. The striking similarities between Sedgwick and Susan's life story, especially when recounted by Sedgwick in the midst of drug-induced audio interviews, make the film's candid depiction of excess and celebrity especially haunting. The film is dedicated to the memory of Sedgwick and ends with the actual headlines announcing Sedgwick's (not Susan Superstar's) untimely death, thus inseparably associating the fictional and the genuine figure.

Film production

Production of Ciao! Manhattan began on Easter Sunday in 1967, as a project of Factory regulars John Palmer, David Weisman, Genevieve Charbin, Chuck Wein, Bob Margouleff, Gino Piserchio, with supplemental roles and tasks fulfilled by various other hangers-on. The film originallly followed the excessively hip lives of Mid-town scenesters Sedgwick and fellow Warhol Superstar Paul America, as they lived life in the fast lane (literally speeding down the West Side Highway on massive amounts of amphetamines). The project was riddled with budget problems, an unfinished, nonsensical script of debauchery, drug use and paranoia. Unreliable actors and rampant drug abuse behind the camera whirled shooting out of control as both Sedgwick and America went missing, putting production on hold. With barely any direction and no end in sight, the film's backers, Bob Margouleff's parents, lost faith in their son's project, and Palmer and Weisman were left with the fragments of a beautifully shot but unpresentable film. To salvage these fragments, Palmer and Weisman decided to reform the script to include the previously shot footage as flashback sequences to tell Sedgwick's tragic story through the personae of Susan Superstar.

In December 1970, they resumed shooting in a mansion in Arcadia, California; for a month they shot Susan recounting her past through the dazed euphoria of perpetual substance abuse. The shooting lasted only a month and in 1971, Ciao! finally went into post-production. However, the excitement of the film's near completion was short lived due to Sedgwick's untimely death from acute barbiturate intoxication.

Despite this tragic end, Ciao! Manhattan premiered in Amsterdam in July of 1972 to great acclaim, due in part to Sedgwick's striking presence and representation of a culture that she helped to define.

Critical synopsis

One in hundreds of narratives recounting the youth counterculture of the 1960s, Ciao's almost naive truth and decadence sets it apart. New York Sedgwick embodies the Sixties, even spraying her hair silver (as in Silver Sixties), her time in New York is documented in black & white, playing on the crisp glamour and ice hard core of a drug-pop life. As the character back home in California (a narrative actually driven by the character of Butch), Susan's story is told in the full color of the 1970s. Her psychedelic pad and tie-dye dress are Butch's (Hayes) childlike free-wheeling attitude towards life, but also hint at the dizzy and deteriorated mind of a young ingénue.

In the ominous voice-over, Susan even implies that it was Warhol himself that turned her on to the heavy drugs. Butch encounters Susan late in her life (27 years old), and reluctantly looks after her for just enough time to hear the tragic story she has to tell. The latter narrative of Butch serves as the mainstream cooptation of the once counterculture that Sedgwick herself helped to create. Susan's drained swimming pool room, located in the back yard of her deteriorating mansion home, is adorned with various bits of Edie memorabilia (photos, magazine covers, stills from various films, etc.) to be direct references to the events that she shares with Butch. The flashbacks depict both the real narrative of Sedgwick's early romps in New York City, sought after by imaginary pursuers, and Susan's memory of Sedgwick's high times that will never be again. We are caught between a disjointed story of a period that could just as easily be a figment of an actor's imagination or the true underlying sense of personal loss and regret. Sedgwick's sometimes chilling monologues of tragic events of her past often seem too real to have been written into the script. The film ends with real footage of Sedgwick's actual marriage to Michael Post and the newspaper headline: Edie, Andy's star of '65, is dead at 28, marking the end of both Sedgwick and Susan Superstar.

30th Anniversary

In the years since its original release, Ciao! Manhattan has become a cult classic, due in large part to the film being Edie Sedgwick's last starring vehicle. On July 19, 2002, exactly thirty years after its world premiere in Amsterdam, Ciao! opened at New York's Cinema Village. In October 2002, Plexifilm released a special edition DVD with additional 35mm outtake footage, rare pictures and interviews with the cast and crew of the film.


  • Stein, Jean. Edie: American Girl. New York, NY. Grove Press. 1994
  • Van Der Post, Lucia. Why everyone wants to be Edie. Mail on Sunday. London: July 31, 2005.
  • Weisman, David. Girl on Fire. Brooklyn, NY. Plexifilm. 2002.
  • Wilson, Andrew. Poor Little It Girl. The Independent. London: February 5, 2006.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Ciao! Manhattan" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools