The Velvet Underground Documentary Review

The Velvet Underground is a 2021 documentary film directed and produced by Todd Haynes that follows the band The Velvet Underground. The documentary film had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on July 7, 2021 and was released on October 15, 2021, by Apple TV+, to critical acclaim.

There’s little doubt that The Velvet Underground is one of the most influential bands of all time, despite the fact that it was not commercial successful during its existence. There is a famous quote attributed to the legendary musician/producer Brian Eno, as follows – “The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band.”

The Velvet Underground Documentary Review

Quite simply put, the band were way ahead of their time by combing sixties pop and rock ’n’ roll with an avant-garde sensibility. Director Todd Haynes conveys this arty-ness of the band by mimicking the film-making style of pop art movement pioneer Andy Warhol, a mentor and manage of the band. Haynes also ensures that the context of the band’s genesis is well portrayed.

Thus, for at least two-thirds of the film, there are two images being presented side by side much like Warhol’s Chelsea Girls film, as Haynes introduces the main players. From John Cale (the de facto musical director cum multi-instrumentalist) to Lou Reed (the tortured songwriter), from Sterling Morrison (lead guitarist) to Maureen Tucker (drummer), we are brought on a bizarre journey encountering these unlikely misfit collaborators, who changed the world of music, while being unknown and obscure!

The final third of the film – after the exits of both Cale and Warhol – is more straightforward as if to signal that Reed’s dominance over the band was some kind of return to normalcy. In fact, the film basically stops after Reed’s departure, without even acknowledging the Doug Yule Velvet Underground album that was released in 1973!

The Velvet Underground is not a film that will convince any naysayers about the value and worth of the band but diehard fans will definitely appreciate Haynes loving tribute. Recommended.

Now streaming on AppleTV+.

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