On the Stage: Premiere of “The Velvet Underground” at the 59th New York Film Festival



For fans of The Velvet Underground, you are going to be in for a treat. If you are new to the Velvet Underground, you have the perfect opportunity to enrich your knowledge of the music, art and history of this beautiful American city. September 30, 59e The New York Film Festival hosted the premiere of two screenings of Todd Haynes’ new documentary, “The Velvet Underground”. That night, moviegoers gathered at the Starr Theater in Alice Tully Hall, and the air was buzzing, the audience excited. From the opening comments from festival director Eugene Hernandez to the brief Q&A with Mr. Haynes that followed the film, the crowd was all there – the applause and cheers became an integral part of the sound. of the documentary as the music pulsed from the theater speakers.

The film opens with a quote from Charles Baudelaire, “Music probes the sky”. And from there, we take off. Todd Haynes immerses the viewer in the New York of the early 1960s. He weaves a rich tapestry of archival images, extracts from avant-garde films, contemporary interviews, music and voice dialogues. off. The city’s creative activity at the time is best referenced with Andy Warhol, whose collaboration with The Velvet Underground in the early years is an integral part of the story. But avant-garde filmmakers like Jonas Mekas and groundbreaking musicians and composers like La Monte Young and John Cale deepen our understanding of the context.

In two short hours, Mr. Haynes, inspired by such a cinema, enchants us with an energetic, sometimes frenetic, visual and sound feast. From the start of the group to its predictable end, we are up to date on the ins and outs of their creative process, collaborations, inspirations, frustrations and successes. The documentary focuses on those who were there, rather than relying on critics, historians and others to document the group’s history. The result is an intimacy and authenticity to what we see on screen. We learn how Lou Reed and others in The Velvet Underground struggle with life’s vulnerabilities and frailties, and how they turn that pain into music.

In the short question-and-answer session that followed, Mr. Haynes had the opportunity to talk about his introduction to Velvet Underground at the university. Developing his own creative sensibility at the time, he noted that finding the band was like “discovering a root I didn’t know existed.” Inspired in part by the fact that there were no documentaries dealing with The Velvet Underground, the director saw an opportunity to make this film. He hopes this, his first documentary as a filmmaker, will inspire others to make art and develop a sense of resistance to the dominant culture and trends and a value of that resistance. And there, the director gets to the heart of the matter. As he says, “art occurs where you resist culture”.

For the curious and those in need of inspiration, if you cannot attend a screening of “The Velvet Underground” during the 59e New York Film Festival, you’ll be happy to hear that the documentary opens on October 13, 2021 at the Film at Lincoln Center.


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