“The Velvet Underground” brilliantly recalls one of the most innovative groups in music

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The collective was known as The Velvet Underground, and over the course of nine years, five records, lineup changes and immense artistic differences, the musical project was the start of something new in the history of music: an avant-garde towards more experimental, contemporary and unknown music. rock and roll shape. Their new documentary, titled under the same name as the group, is made in honor of their spiritual and artistic connections, and is perhaps the perfect treat for fans.

The filmography of director Todd Haynes does not go unnoticed musically. His previous work consisted of various musical themes like his Bob Dylan meta tale, “I’m not here”, and British glam rock films like “Velvet Goldmine”. The theme and backdrop for “The Velvet Underground” are the explosive novelties of the New York art scene of the 1960s, when poet Allen Ginsberg, filmmaker Jonas Mekas and painter Andy Warhol fueled a storm of immense cultural changes. As much as it is a look at one of the most influential musicians in the history of rock and roll, it is also a historical essay and a love letter to the melting pot of artistic expression of New York.

“The Velvet Underground” is told entirely in a split-screen / multi-frame format in an ode to Warhol’s 1966 experimental classic “Chelsea Girls”. The film takes place in different chapters, some of them focusing only on the important characters in the life of the group.

Each chapter of the film is a dense and exploratory piece on the evolution of each member of the group. Told primarily by multi-instrumentalist and band member John Cale, it feels authentic and close to home. It focuses on the roots of their love for music: Cale’s education as a pioneering viola composer, and the childhood friendship of Sterling Morrison and Maureen “Moe” Tucker who ultimately glued the group in its final form.

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The chapter titled “ANDY” looks at Warhol’s role as producer of the album “The Velvet Underground & Nico” and creator of the famous banana sleeve for the project. Warhol was the backbone of the group, and he became their manager in 1965.

It was Warhol who suggested they use singer and actress Nico, who featured in her recent experimental photos, “The Closet” and “Ari and Mario”. A German model who progressed in the music scene as a centerpiece of avant-garde folk, Nico sung alongside Lou Reed on almost every song on this debut album.

Reed, the band’s songwriter, singer and lead guitarist is perhaps a household name for the Syracuse community. He attended Syracuse University in the early 1960s, performing under many band names (one being LA and the Eldorados) all over campus. The documentary takes some time to talk about Reed’s time in Syracuse, looking back as a moment of change for the musically progressive individual. It was here in SU that he met Sterling Morrison, a friend of Reed’s and later the band’s co-guitarist.

The film reveals many intriguing elements that made the band sound, one being the use of drones – continuous sonic notes or chords in a song – in Cale’s production. La Monte Young, a famous minimalist composer who lived with Cale for a time, believed that the use of “drones” would be beneficial for the compositions of The Dark Horse of the Velvet Underground. Through extensive exposure, Haynes makes a crisp recording of a short-lived masterclass of a band, whose detailed experimentation influenced the rest of the world.

Fans of The Velvet Underground will be delighted with the in-depth preview of the subjects of this documentary. But if you’re looking for a detailed look at every year, every record, and every moment of the band’s nine years, you won’t find it – more than half of the runtime is spent in the years 1964-67. As a cumulative reading of previous waves of New York City film, music, and art, however, this is the near perfect review. “The Velvet Underground” is a savored and honest journey into educating band members as musical prodigies.


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