Movie Review: Film about one of the most influential alternative rock bands of all time


Formed in New York City in 1964, with an original line-up of Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison and Angus MacLise, the avant-garde and provocative rocker of The Velvet Underground enjoyed little commercial success at the time.

However, in the years that followed, they were recognized as one of the most influential alternative rock groups of all time. Directed and produced by filmmaker Todd Haynes, here’s a new documentary, The Velvet Underground, which eschews musical documentary conventions and tells the band’s story as a collage of New York’s underground art culture.

American director Todd Haynes is perhaps best known for his touching melodramas, ranging from Far From Heaven, inspired by Douglas Sirk in 2001, to his glorious adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith novel with Carol in 2015. In 2011, Haynes s ‘focuses on television, directing and co-writing the acclaimed HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce.

The velvet metro.

However, he drew frequent inspiration from music in his work, starting in 1987 with his controversial short Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story. Distribution of the film would later be banned due to improper licensing, although it has since become a cult classic. In 1998 Haynes would direct Velvet Goldmine, a musical drama about a fictional glam-rock frontman inspired by T-Rex’s David Bowie and Marc Bolan, and in 2007 he directed the unconventional I’m Not There. A biopic inspired by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, I’m Not There features six different actors portraying different elements of Dylan’s character. Returning to a review of well-known musical figures, Haynes takes on The Velvet Underground in his latest project and his first feature documentary.

There is relatively little footage from The Velvet Underground, so Haynes makes extensive use of split screen, editing, contemporary and past interviews to chronicle the group. Interestingly, Haynes continues to keep heads talking to a minimum, instead taking a multimedia approach with photographs, music, and experimental motion footage. A film for die-hard fans and newcomers alike, Haynes traces the group’s journey, from training to collaborating with Andy Warhol and the induction of German singer-songwriter Nico. The Velvet Underground captures not only the band, but also a mood, documenting an era of musical innovation, experimentation and creativity.

The Velvet Underground will be screened at the Showroom Cinema from Friday October 8. Tickets are on sale now.

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About Joan J. Hernandez

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