Butch (Wesley Hayes) is travelling from his native Texas to Malibu in search of the good life, but is finding people his own age are more interested in getting high in their pursuit of happiness. As he drives down a highway one evening, he sees a half-naked hitchhiker by the side of the road ands stops to pick her up. She is Susan, a burnt-out model (Edie Sedgwick) who he escorts back to her swanky yet faded mansion home where she regales him with reminiscences about her days as a celebrity in the sixties.
The movie equivalent of a groggy, drug-induced haze, this was thrown together from an unfinished film hailing from 1967 and padded out with scenes of Edie in 1970 after she had expressed an interest in completing the picture, despite the fact it was now a mishmash of odds and ends grabbed whenever the two directors could muster a cast rather than a coherent narrative. She lounges around an empty swimming pool, drinking vodka and unselfconsciously showing her silicone tits while she tells her life story to dim, flying saucer-loving Texan Butch who has picked her up on the road, all the while ignoring her mother's attempts to get her to shake herself up and get straight.
Of course, Edie is what makes this film interesting despite itself, as she died not long after her final scenes were filmed, of a prescription drug-induced overdose, most probably a suicide. A top model of the sixties, and one of Andy Warhol's Superstars (not in the Brian Jacks sense), she was falling to pieces by 1970 - indeed, she had fallen to pieces well before that as her life was so fraught with mental illness and personal disaster it's practically a miracle she reached the age she did: she died at twenty-eight years old. You get the impression not much acting is involved in her slurred words and blank stare for the later, colour footage sequences, shot mere months before her passing.
It all adds up to uncomfortable viewing, more so because you're not sure whether the film makers truly were upset by her death, or saw it as a great gimmick to cash in on; latterly they expressed pity for the way Edie wound up and their inability to prevent her journey to oblivion, yet indulging her celebrity fantasies, no matter how far they had taken her in actuality, was perhaps not the healthiest of treatment for the poor, lost soul. For what it's worth, the '67 film looks pretty confusing, a melange of quasi-documentary footage captured around New York City, narrated by Sedgwick in none-too-illuminating fashion, and a plot that seems to have escaped the directors, never mind the hapless viewer, which is pretty much what happened on this mess of a project.
If it's compelling in a horrible way, it's additionally worth reassessing the Faustian influence of Warhol, as Edie was far from the only person in his orbit to be built up as a plastic star then dropped abruptly once the hell of drink and drugs had grown too overwhelming to cope with. Yet Warhol remains respected, and the casualties his life was littered with as he used them up, screwed them up and threw them away, are dismissed as losers (Paul America, the lead's one time boyfriend, appears too, and his tale of woe is as awful as his erstwhile partner's). At least Edie, who was undeniably photogenic, still has a following of sincere sorrow at her plight, which is something to cling onto considering Warhol boosted his own career to superstar status by using up her heiress fortune. Being elegantly wasted in elevated circumstances is a sure way of gathering a cult, no matter how vertiginous the drop to degradation, and the cult of Edie Sedgwick will always return to worry at the tragic detritus of Ciao! Manhattan. Also with: Allen Ginsberg starkers. And, the man himself, Mister Warhol, seen in the sixties footage, but briefly - mentioned almost grudgingly.