The Velvet Underground

(USA/2021—directed by Todd Haynes)

Given the ingeniously imagined musical worlds of Velvet Goldmine and I’m Not There, it should come as no surprise that Todd Haynes’s documentary about the seminal band The Velvet Underground mirrors its members’ experimentation and formal innovation. 

Combining contemporary interviews and archival documentation with a trove of avant-garde film from the era, Haynes constructs a vibrant cinematic collage that is as much about New York of the ’60s as it is about the rise and fall of one of rock ’n’ roll’s most revered bands. A group that became a cultural touchstone by being of their time, yet timeless; literary yet realistic; rooted in high art and street culture. 

Filmed with the cooperation of surviving band members, this multifaceted portrait folds in an array of participants in the creative scene’s cultures and subcultures. Using a treasure trove of never-before-seen performances and a vast collection of recordings, Warhol films and other experimental art, Haynes unearths rich detail about Warhol, The Factory, Lou Reed, Nico and more, adding context and texture that never diminishes the ultimate enigma of the band’s power. Official Selection, Cannes and New York Film Festivals. (120 minutes)

“This is a great documentary about people who are serious about music and serious about art, and what it means to live as an artist.”  -Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

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