Maybe it’s because I’m a longtime music lover, but I feel like it would be pretty hard to spoil a documentary about a famous music artist unless you have an obvious and deeply rooted bias. . Take Todd Haynes’ new doc on the Velvet Underground, simply titled The velvet metro.
On the surface, this is a pretty basic introduction to the most famous alternative rock band of all time, but that might not come as a surprise given that two band members are still with us participating in the movie. Obviously, no one wants to bring up a personal drama or scandal while securing their legacy.
But since Haynes is an Oscar nominated filmmaker and very familiar with the band’s era as seen in his previous films Super star (1987), Golden velvet (1998) and I am not here (2007), its staging, the editing, the new comments from the associates of the group and of course, the music itself The velvet metro worthy of interest.
In the midst of the 1960s counterculture, three New Yorkers, a Welshman, and a German model came together in New York to form a group that would help define an entire musical genre. The inhabitants of the Velvet Underground were singer and songwriter Lou Reed, lead guitarist Sterling Morrison and drummer Moe Tucker. John Cale was the bassist, keyboardist and violist from overseas.
The group forms a relationship with avant-garde artist and celebrity Andy Warhol, who becomes their manager and recruits model actress Nico as another singer and for sex appeal. Despite the lack of sense of the traditional spectacle of Reed and Cale, or Nico being on the edge of the muted tone, the group is a success. “The Velvet Underground & Nico” became one of the most influential and acclaimed albums of 1967.
Haynes’ new documentary would be a good double feature film with Edgar Wright’s own classic rock-era documentary The Sparks Brothers at the start of this year. Both groups were ahead of their time, as the tired old expression says, and both feature films are strictly about the origin stories and creative processes of the groups. In the case of the Velvets, their cult grew much faster than Sparks, mainly due to the successful solo careers of Reed and Nico.
Here, with their eponymous photo, we get a retrospective strictly on the group’s eight-year tenure, as well as a recap of some of the cultural events that have been relevant to the group’s history. Cale and Tucker are sadly the only members of the group still alive, but their narration as well as that of contemporaries like actress Mary Woronov, film critic Amy Taubin, and musician Jackson Browne make for a very effective commentary.
Particularly amusing is a time when Tucker and Woronov talk about Californian flower kids, reminding us that the Velvets and other Warhol junkies were part of a radical subgroup that made even hippies look square.
Watching The velvet metro as a rock music fanatic i didn’t learn anything particularly new or revolutionary. But it was nice to spend two hours seeing lots of archival footage and photos of the band and famous friends like Edie Sedgwick and Bob Dylan.
If you’re new to alternative music and want a brief history lesson on his birth, Haynes’s documentary would be a good place to start.