The Velvet Underground. 2021
Directed by Todd Haynes.
Featuring Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, Maureen Tucker, Nico, Andy Warhol, John Waters, Mary Woronov, Amy Taubin, Merrill Reed Weiner, and Doug Yule.
The Velvet Underground explores the multiple threads that converged to bring together one of the most influential bands in rock and roll.
Celebrated director Todd Haynes’ looks at the avant-garde New York-based 1960s rock band The Velvet Underground is every bit an experimental documentary as they were a group. Granted, while there is a never-ending artsy touch to the proceedings (split-screen presentation showing photographs and archival footage set to audio narration, and a general look at the band’s intersection with film and art that play out in provocative videos), it still amounts to your standard talking-heads execution.
However, it is refreshing to watch a documentary that, while naturally focused on the rise to fame, doesn’t so much has a disastrous fall arc but rather the occasional visionary difference that leads to parting ways. As Lou Reed and John Cale found themselves involved with Andy Warhol’s art collective, The Factory, such a dynamic led to record deals and experimental filmmaking while adding and removing band members.
The Velvet Underground also proves to be a fitting project for Todd Haynes (Carol), observing Lou Reed’s fascination with homosexuality which splinters off into other interests such as degradation. Early on, Lou mentions he enjoyed playing in gay spaces simply because he thought they were awesome people to be around. The same can be said about the band, who carved out their own unique path while speaking their minds (they don’t exactly have nice words regarding the hippie movement) and pushing one another towards abstract sonic excellence with dark and relatable lyrics.
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Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com