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

Alongside The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, The Velvet Underground are one of the three pivotal groups in the history of rock n’ roll.

Monday, 4th October 2021, 3:10 pm
Updated Wednesday, 6th October 2021, 8:17 am

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

However, in the years since, they have been recognised as one of the most influential alternative rock bands of all time. Directed and produced by filmmaker Todd Haynes comes a new documentary, The Velvet Underground, that shuns music documentary conventions and tells the band’s story as a collage of underground New York art culture.

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

The Velvet Underground.

However, he has frequently drawn upon music across his work, beginning in 1987 with his controversial short film Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story. The film’s distribution would later be banned due to improper licensing, though it has since become something of a cult classic. In 1998, Haynes would direct Velvet Goldmine, a musical drama about a fictional glam-rock frontman patterned after David Bowie and T-Rex’s Marc Bolan, and in 2007, he helmed 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 persona. Returning to an examination of well-known musical personalities, Haynes takes on The Velvet Underground in his latest project and first documentary feature.

Relatively little footage of The Velvet Underground exists, so Haynes makes extensive use of split screen, montage, contemporary and past interviews to chronicle the group. Interestingly, Haynes keeps talking heads to a minimum, instead embracing a multimedia approach with photographs, music and experimental animated sequences. A film for die-hard fans and newcomers alike, Haynes charts the course of the band from formation to collaboration with Andy Warhol and the induction of German singer-songwriter Nico. The Velvet Underground captures not only the band but a mood, documenting an era of musical innovation, experimentation and creativity.

The Velvet Underground will be screening at the Showroom Cinema from Friday 18th October. Tickets are on sale now.

Ticket link: https://www.showroomworkstation.org.uk/the-velvet-underground