Film Review: The Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground & Nico

It’s rare to hear a band who sound completely new of different. Who don’t just mimic their idols or produce music which is a slight variation on a popular theme. Nowadays, it’s almost unheard of. Whilst this has always been the case and musicians have always been influenced by what has come before, very occasionally a band which re-write the songbook. This was the case with The Velvet Underground.

Formed in 1965 out of the ashes of Lou Reid and John Cale’s first band, The Primitives, it wasn’t until Andy Warhol became their manager that the band really took off. He enlisted the services of German singer Nico to join a quartet also comprising Moe Tucker and Sterling Morrison. Despite initial poor sales and mixed critical response, they have gone on to become one of the most influential bands of the era. The Velvet Underground tells their story.

In a way, The Velvet Underground is quite a standard music documentary, but nothing about the band or director Todd Haynes shrieks normality. He approaches his subject matter with a blank canvas, allowing their influence to seep into each frame. Using interviews with those in the scene and amassing a rich collection of archive footage, he takes the viewer on a journey. The Velvet Underground is part tribute, part documentary, made from the same DNA as the band themselves.

The Velvet Underground premieres in the US at Film Forum on 13 October.

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