‘Chelsea Girls’: Idle Self-Absorption


“The Chelsea Girls,” Andy Warhol’s famous 1966 tribute to dissolute boredom, finally comes to Orange County tonight. The 3 1/2-hour film, with music by the Velvet Underground, follows the catatonic lives of denizens of the Chelsea Hotel in New York. Warhol derails the viewer’s conventional notion of time, sealing off the nonevents of the film in a hellish dream world.

Is it boring? I bailed a couple of hours into a Los Angeles screening several years ago. Still, it’s worth checking out to see what the deadpan Warhol aesthetic is about.

Made to be shown on two projectors running side by side, the film uses seven hours of footage culled from marathon sessions at the hotel. The Chelsea, spiffed up and pricey these days, was once famous as the dilapidated digs of the arty demimonde. (The hotel was home to punk rocker Sid Vicious and girlfriend Nancy Spurgeon. Remember the squalid final scenes of the 1986 movie “Sid and Nancy”?)

Among the Warhol stable who appear (“act” isn’t the right word) in “Chelsea Girls” is Gerard Malanga, a young hunk and real-life poet and filmmaker, and Nico, the ever-mysterious German beauty who segued from modeling to music. (If you’re intrigued by her, rent “Nico-Icon” (1995), a riveting German documentary narrated by a motley crew of ‘60s-era folks who hung out with her but never cracked her shell of self-isolation.)

The ever-laconic Warhol once suggested that if a projectionist objected to parts of “Chelsea Girls"--in which a drugged guy attacks the camera and which includes much off-color dialogue--"he can just turn down the sound or put his hand over the lens.” (Unrated.)


* Film and Video Center at UC Irvine, Humanities Instructional Building, Room 100 (off West Pelatson Drive in Irvine), 7 p.m. $8. (949) 824-7418 or

A Full Evening

Tonight’s screening of “Big Night,” the final evening of the Odyssey Food Film Series and Food Tasting, is designed to stimulate the senses of sight, smell and taste. The series, part of Cal State Long Beach’s Festival of the Five Senses, features a film-related tasting of food from local restaurants before a food-related movie.

The biggest star of “Big Night” is a timpano, a huge pie filled with meat, eggs, cheeses and pasta, a specialty from the Calabria region of southern Italy. The dish makes its mouthwatering appearance at a banquet hosted by two immigrant brothers trying to save the family restaurant from foreclosure under the looming presence of a schlocky Italian eatery across the street.

The film, set in late 1950s New Jersey, also is about the contrasting styles of success-driven maitre d’ Stanley Tucci (who co-wrote the script, with Joseph Tropicano, and co-directed, with Campbell Scott) and his brother (Tony Shalhoub), a perfectionist chef trying to educate philistine American diners in the subtleties of real cuisine.

Times film critic Kenneth Turan--one of a chorus of reviewers praising “Big Night"--called the 1996 film “a lyric to the love of food, family and persuasive acting.” (MPAA rating: R, for language.)

* University Student Union, W. Campus Drive (off Bellflower Boulevard), Cal State Long Beach. Park in structure on Atherton or in any student lot ($1.75). Food service begins at 5:30 p.m., movie at 6:30. $5 for food and film; $3 for film only. (562) 985-4546.

Hong Kong ‘Trio’

A campy comic-book style, an outlandish plot and plenty of martial-arts action animate “Heroic Trio,” screening Saturday as part of UCI’s fall series From Zen to Now: Hong Kong Action Film.

Leading Hong Kong actress Michelle Yeoh (better known on these shores as a Bond girl) is the bad girl in this 1992 film by Johnny To and Ching Siu-tung. Anita Mui is Wonder Woman, a masked superhero who fights an invisible kidnapper stealing male babies for the diabolical purposes of a mysterious, subterranean-dwelling eunuch. With Maggie Cheung (the sultry, cat-suited charmer of “Irma Vep”), Hong Kong’s answer to Meryl Streep. (Unrated.)

* Film and Video Center, UCI, Humanities Instructional Building, Room 100. 7 p.m. $6 general; $4 students, seniors, faculty, staff. (949) 824-7418.