The Velvet Underground (2021) Poster

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They're in a rock n roll band
Quinoa198422 October 2021
(Jonathan Richman on Velvet Underground): "For me, it was like being in the presence of Michelangelo!"

Now, let's not get too crazy here - Michelangelo never created anything as rad as "I'm Waiting for the Man" :p

This is the kind of documentary you can sink into, that moves from one part to the next seamlessly. And it made me realize that how they created those first songs and that first album is even more miraculous than I had thought before. It's like a really clear and inspirational look - and inspiration that comes from depicting life in an honesty and sadness that came from personal spots - also at how this group managed to synthesize art into many forms... because it wasn't "with it" (oh how they go after the hippies here, or at least Woronov who is a great interview). Real art actually pushes past what came before while embracing so many other kinds of art (from the most avant garde to the Everly Brothers in pop), and Haynes's doc does a superb job of revealing that.

Haynes did a q&a after the screening I went to (oh I'm so glad I got to see the title on a big screen if nothing else, but those Warhol Screen Tests really are more interesting in a theatrical setting, though it helps that there's split screen to juxtapose and so on that's so great, I digress but the editing is some of the most invigorating in a doc in years) - he called this kind of a Dreamscape of the 60s and New York, and it's a dream that vacillates in the joy and thrill of creating something new and the edge and uncanny and dark that comes with that. And the fact that the footage of the Underground largely rests in the Factory world makes it a story of that, too... up to a point.

But at the heart of it and what drives it to being so absorbing is Lou Reed. There's a mystery and sadness to him that the film can only scratch the surface to see, not because it doesn't mean to try but because it would be too disrespectful to try to make hypothetical things. He's just... Lou.

And lastly... I still don't get Warhol, either. Frankly, maybe I've just never been cool or hip enough for it. Vinyl (1965) is not bad, though. And I'm glad there was mention of (the Factory) being not all peaches and cream, especially for the women.
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Must-see documentary on the trailblazing band
paul-allaer18 October 2021
As "The Velvet Underground" (2021 release; 115 min.) opens, we are introduced to young Lou Reed, whose family moved out to Long Island when he was 7, the start of a long journey that eventually sees him landing in Manhattan in the early 60s. We then shift to John Cale's background and early life in Wales, where he learns the viola. He ends up in New York in 1963. The movie reminds us what life in New Yok was like in the early 60s: "we are not counter-culture, we ARE the culture." At this point we are 10 min into the film.

Couple of comments: this is the latest film from acclaimed director Todd Haynes ("I'm Not There", "Carol", "Dark Wates"). In other words: this pretty much guaranteed that this would not be your typical rock documentary . It's also not just about the Velvet Underground, but the whole New York arts scene in the 1960s including Andy Warhol's Factory. "It was Andy Warhol who made the first album possible", claims a talking head (implying that without the famous cover art and with Nico's presence, the debut album would've never seen the light of day). Ah yes, Nico. She gets her due as well, and then some. Along the way we get treated to a slew of rare if ever before seen film footage and photos from that era. The first hour of this documentary, which carries us up and through 1965, is a perfect 5 stars, and had me just watching in complete fascinations with it all. The second hour of the documentary is not nearly as good. Much of the talking heads' (including surviving members John Cale and Maureen Tucker) interviews was filmed in 2018. (Did you know that Jackson Browne regularly played with Nico during her early solo gigs?)

"The Velvet Underground" premiered at this year's Cannes Film Festival to immediate critical acclaim, and Apple TV eagerly snapped it up. The movie was released in select theaters for a limited run, and thankfully my art-house theater here in Cincinnati had it in its lineup as from this weekend. The Saturday matinee show where I saw this at was attended so-so (7 people in total including myself). If you are a fan of the Velvet Underground or are simply interested in a slice of rock history. I'd readily suggest you check this out, be it in the theater (while you still can), on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.
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Great Music Social History.
Pairic17 October 2021
The Velvet Underground: Documentary about the band and their artistic/social milieu. Many interviews, some bitterness fro Lou reed: "Andy Warhol produced The Banana Album in the sense that he was live in the studio when it was made". But y0u also see them together when Warhol was dying, friends again. Split screen is used to good effect, often using a loop of John Cale or Reed blinking when more info/clips are on the other half. Moe Tucker the VU drummer and sometime singer didn't like hippies, the West Coast or Frank Zappa. Demo tapes of Venus In Furs and Waiting For My Man plus many other VU songs. Great Music Social History film. Directed by Todd Haynes. 8/10.
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Peel Slowly and See
Screen_O_Genic18 October 2021
One of the notable and important documentaries of recent times "The Velvet Underground" is a long overdue tribute to the great band and its incalculable influence on popular culture and artistic history. Utilizing a somewhat experimental slant in relating the group's fabled history this somewhat sedate and sombre academic take begins with the band members' origins and their path to legend. Chronicling their start from a garage band to the innovatory course they took that set them brilliantly apart from the rest and their fateful meeting with Andy Warhol onto the end of their career the film is a pretty compelling feast of art and music. Priceless footage of the band and interviews with people who played a part in the band's legend provide the information on what made the band tick. Considering The Velvets influence and importance it's a sorely lacking flaw that so many artists were not featured and interviewed in this doc. Having Jonathan Richman and a voice interview of a long dead David Bowie as the few luminaries featured is pitiful to say the least and diminishes/minimalizes on why the band is so important and why they will always matter. The lack of liveliness and a sense of fun and verve kill the sense of Rock n' Roll which is what this film is and should really be about. While the definitive Rockumentary on the mythical band has yet to be done this should be a good treat that'll have fans satisfied. A memorial to a time, a city and artists this is an aesthetic paean to perhaps the greatest and most influential Rock band in history.
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More intellect and style than substance, this doc is bland and uninspiring.
msghall6 January 2022
Rock and roll is pure emotion. The director of this doc is pure intellect. This style-over-substance exercise left me with little or no memory of its contents, although I've been a fan since the band debuted.

Director Todd Haynes makes this more about the scene, the lyrics, the themes of the time than about the extraordinary emotion and thrills the Velvet Underground group provided. Like Haynes' previous biopic of Dylan, this doc lays there without the emotional and personal impact required to inspire, totally the opposite of the immeasurable power of its subject.

In comparison, I later watched a doc on the pop-rock band, The Go-Go's, of which I'm not particularly a fan. It's immersed in raw energy, joy and sadness while Haynes wraps his far more exciting and influential band in a wreath of intellectual art school blandness.

With the Go-Go's the director stepped aside to let the band tell the story. With 'The Velvet Underground', Haynes takes center stage, with the band as side players to his ego. Unlike 'The Velvet Underground' doc, the Go-Go's story was emotional, fun and lasted with me. And that's what rock and roll is about, isn't it?
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Hyperactive Garbage
anxiousgayhorseonketamine26 October 2021
How can one make such garbage about the greatest NYC band of the sixties

Here is how

You interview the few remaining survivors Cale Tucker Woronow Jonas Mekas you also drag in La Monte Young (nice coup) you add Danny Fields (that voice :) and a few more: Lou Reed's own sister wow THAT was new

But then when they tell you interesting things you cut to some amped-up cliche music cuts from the albums but only for a minute with speeded-up images to make it arty or Warholianesque you hike the sound so it is impossible to watch this documentary without a remote on your lap

You spend far too much showing us Warhol and his retinue of talentless poseurs @ the dreaded Factory

And worse of all you expose us YET again to footage of Gerard "I really cannot dance" Malanga which is like having your nervous system processed through a cheese-grater

The whole thing is hyperactive in the worst possible way ... I have been a fan of this band forever but Learnt nothing here. Bored to tears. Ashamed to have stayed 3 quarters in before I bailed

This guy thought he was making an art piece not a documentary. In the end he did neither.
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Be brave be bold and don't follow the crowd
darren-153-89081010 October 2021
Warning: Spoilers
Forget what old Grumbleweed said in his review. This movie sounds great and looks great. Granted, it's not perfect but with limited footage available it's def the best VU doc out there.

I saw it at the Royal Festival hall, the songs sounded incredible

I'm not sure why Grumbleweed is being so negative. I'm a massive fan and have read all the books too. John Cale did talk about John Cage quite a bit, Lou talked about the bands he was into to. I would like more on Nico if I'm honest.

I guess if you're a casual fan you'll dig it. If you're hardcore you may be disappointed. For me I was just glad to hear those songs loud with images

Go see it. You won't be disappointed

For the record. I'm a PowerPoint Designer. That would have taken some work to produce a presentation like that.
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A lot of great archive footage and an enjoyable, well balanced film
chris-h-317 October 2021
Very much enjoyed this, as a fan of the bands music, I'm not sure I learned much that I didn't know before but I loved seeing a lot of this archive footage and photographs, which I don't think have been seen before publicly.

Its very much a celebration of the bands music and legacy and a few of the interviews made me laugh and the closing montage may have made me cry a little. What more can you ask from a film?

I did find the Warhol style a little jarring at the beginning, with some of the flashing imagery, but it did calm down and seems fully appropriate to the subject and so much better than it being a dull series of interviews with talking heads... And while there were interviews with the remaining members of band and the scene they were all completely relevant, thankfully we didn't get a series of other fans or celebrities talking about the band and themselves. The film also did really well including those members who are no longer with us and it really felt that the whole band was featured and represented here.

It is not an encyclopedic history of the band which some people perhaps wanted, I guess you'd need a six or eight hour miniseries to cover that, or you could just read one of the many books and biographys that exist. Like I say I love the bands music and the artists subsequent careers, I don't know how the film would play if you were not familiar with Warhol and the band already but for me it was a perfectly judged and very enjoyable two hours.
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Velvets are over rated
fashinrashin22 October 2021
Sorry , its all incredibly over rated. "All tomorrow's parties" is quite good , the medieval mummers violoncello overtone in "Venus" ,(pure cage) is nice, but much of the music is derivative, -- kinks, Troggs, Byrds, Sgt Peppers can all be heard on the banana album.

Then as now, they were all trying too hard, its forced, not organic.

And then there is that " too cool for school schtick" . (the truth is they were all tortured twisted freaks whos daddies didnt love them).

Go back and listen to 1964 MC5 if you want the origins of Punk, or listen to what 23 year old Paul McCartney and Lennon were doing if you want pure pop musical innovation.

Oh yeah and and I nearly forgot - SCREW HEROIN (That drug IS NOT cool no matter what Lou Reed said)
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Cookie-cutter BS documentary
keenast16 October 2021
Cookie-cutter 'documentary. Essentially the typical talking-head thingy with some weird editing gimmicks thrown in to make it less obvious. Split-screen Avantgarde ;-)

Not worth the time watching.
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A Fitting Tribute
pgeary600121 November 2021
It's hard to imagine how a documentary on the VU could be any better than this. Besides providing a bounty of film clips, photos, old and new interviews and more, the film captures the voice and aesthetics of the Warhol/Velvets milieu through cinematic techniques such as splt screen sequences a la Warhol's Chelsea Girls and visual portraits from Warhol's Screen Test series.

The tone is appreciative and sympathetic, but never sycophantic; Lou Reed's curmudgeonly persona is evident at numerous points, but in view of his monumental artistic achievements, all is forgiven. All the other players are given their moment in the spotlight and it's a notable joy to witness contemporary remarks from Moe Tucker and Mary Woronov.

Above it all, though, is the thrill of the music, still sounding powerful and life-changing. After seeing the film, you'll want to dig out your Velvets vinyl and once more become immersed in these historic tracks.
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Peel quickly and don't see
svendaly16 October 2021
Oddly limited in scope. I knew it was a standalone two hour job but found myself doubting that- given the first half was given to pre-band. This was of course fascinating.

But we end up with a 20 minute breeze through the Doug Yule era and I adore those albums.

No reformation covered either.

Visuals wonderful - but bizarre sound mixing (at least for my experience anyway) which meant you couldn't hear the commentary over the music so I had to watch with subtitles on. Which gave an interesting experience in realising that "my" Velvets lyrics have subtle, distinct differences to those that are apparently true.
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nickcato-5691313 November 2021
Pieced together almost as strangely as the band itself, this doc features excellent profiles of each band member and those closest to them. Was nice to have insight from people like John Waters, and who knew Jackson Browne was once involved with something that didn't suck?

Loved the early footage of Lou Reed and the band playing doo-wop.
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Totally & Completely Overrated
slider94999 November 2021
This band and Lou Reed, are two of the most overrated bands and artists in the hisotry of recorded music. Period. Lou Reed had ONE HIT song. One. I don't know one band or artist who ever sighted either of these two as influences. I am a (touring) musician, have been for 50 years. I never understood how or why anyone cared about either of these two? Growing up, I obviously hung out with other musicians, none ever mentioned these two nor ever sighted one song by any of them.
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What Made Lou, John and the Velvets
MrWeenie16 October 2021
It was not the full three-sixty on the band, but centers on their sound in the Reed-Cale era and rather than spend much time on theory, it focuses on who Lou and John were as people in order to explain it, delving into the environment they lived and created in. It also eventually compares them to contemporaries, but again, here it prefers to compare who they were in attitude and emotion. When John and Lou split, when the band starts winding down, the movie also starts winding down. I'm fine with all that. Visually, I felt like it was interesting, but not mind blowing. Personally, I didn't need to it to be a visual masterpiece to be satisfying. I didn't need it to interview every former flat mate or girlfriend, I didn't need it to chase down every subplot in the band, I didn't need a happy ending. I wanted a piece on Lou and John and what made the band what they were. It's a two-hour piece on that.
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lodger1313-782-5854717 October 2021
I love Todd Haynes, I love Lou Reed, I love Andy Warhol... but this documentary about the Velvet Underground is dispassionate, dull and unengaging. Haynes has endless hours of Warhol footage of the band - and other footage as well... but he's compiled it in a way that is unenlightening and easy to dismiss. You walk away feeling a doc about Reed would be much more interesting... Maybe there is already a doc about Reed, I don't know. There's certainly a ton of docs about Warhol. Why was VU important? Beats me - this doc doesn't help answer that question. The only interesting thing in the film is Jonathan Richman discussing how he saw VU a lot when he was a teen... hell, even a doc about Richman would be better than this... As I said - I love Todd Haynes - but this amount to non-storytelling with masturbatory editing and no passion. Who cares? I've never been a huge VU fan - I came a little late to the party... so maybe this isn't for me... but I think I'm right when I say, this film isn't for anybody, fans or neophytes alike.
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Tells us nothing we don't already know.
eoinodonnell8125 October 2021
Warning: Spoilers
I love VU. Massive fan. Really like Todd Haynes. When I heard he was making a doc about them I was excited. A proper analysis by an expert film maker.

I was very very disappointed.

The plus. Some nice footage of them playing live with Doug Yule, the last 30 mins is an interesting discussion and description of the band.

But that's it.

It is an hour and 25 mins before we get to the first album. Loads of time given to pre band years.. lamont young gets a lot of screen time, there is nothing here that you haven't seen or heard before (the lou reed doc rock and roll animal covers it), white light/white heat gets a passing mention.

Nothing about the reunion, the hall of fame, cale rejoining VU, the 72 concert where reed tried to reform them, cale and reed reuniting for songs for drella (yes its relevant) or their legacy.

And the worst bit was I said to myself before watching "I hope they don't do the obvious and open the film with Venus in Furs" and guess what.. I was right.

Skip to 1 hr 30 mins for Best parts. Then watch other vu/reed docs.

Nirvana in UK and the recent Lynyrd Skynyrd docs are an example how to retell a story and reveal new things to us. This a bad film. What a shame.
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Tedious. Too Cool for School. Avoid.
naq-119 October 2021
(Note: this review is from a huge fan of Andy Warhol, the films of Gerard Malanga, Mary Woronov, and especially, Laurie Anderson, Nico, and Todd Haynes. This is particularly sad to have to write a downer review about a band that deserves some respect, but without all this extra added grandstanding.)

As to be expected, the documentary about the Velvets is overrated, boring, too 'over the top' and frankly doesn't say anything about the band that anyone listening to their records wouldn't already know. There are way too many scenes of some disembodied voice dramatically overestimating what significance can be attributed to some meaningless vocal track, accompanied by a mishmash of incoherent images taken from various and sundry unrelated movies shot with 16mm black and white as examples of film school art in the 1960's and then the music overtakes the interview so we never find out who said what about whom and why should we care, just like this rambling pointless sentence. It's all one big mess. But it's an art mess. A mess of art.

Unfortunately, all the hype behind the project is simply enough to make it sound like the second coming, when all it turns out to be is just a slap-dash attempt to look ultra cool and show up the rest of the class. Everything Todd Haynes has done in his life up to this point has proven his ability to come up with unique angles on even the most routine plotlines; however, in this case, he completely loses his way trying desperately to look like a member of the band-- and the sycophantic cadre of Producers, co-Producers, Associate Producers, and other Producers does nothing to step in and straighten out the confusion. Even Christine Vachon, the goddess that she is, Producer of all that is unique and daring, cannot provide a voice of reason, and so she just goes along with the gang--"whatever you say, Todd."

So the film drones on, just like the Velvet does, in one of their infinite self-absorbing interminable solos, and we try to act interested as if we really think there is some significance to any of this, when in reality we are just checking our watches to see how much longer this entire exercise in over-indulgence is going to last. Two hours? Oy.
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Too slow
samuel-granados1827 October 2021
This is a snoozer. They should have had the director who made Senna make this instead. I watched the entire doc hoping it would get better.. big mistake. I dont know much about velvet, like their music. Was hoping to lean more about them. Instead I got a long music video with pointless interviews/no story line and bland visuals.

Better just find a fan made youtube doc and save yourself the time.
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Oddly Disappointing
wyldemusick15 October 2021
I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised that a film released by Apple is a heavily sanitized look at the VU. I *am* surprised that Todd Haynes did this - I was expecting something with teeth. And why was Laurie Anderson completely left out? She was Reed's ultimate connection with that art world, even though she came along later.

Not surprised but still disappointed at the elision of Doug Yule's attempt to keep the band going after Lou Reed left. SQUEEZE isn't even in the slideshow of later album covers. Then again, the film also ends on a 1972 performance with Reed, Cale, and Nico, and just ignores the later reunion tour and record.

There's so much not even touched on. It's not awful, mind you...just, well, curiously corporate.
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Velvet Underground and the Beach Boys the most overrated Groups of all time.
cachacaqz5 January 2022
I am unaware of no other group that writers have expended as much ink on as the Velvet underground. I have yet to hear any of their music, save for Lou Reed Walk On The Wild Side, his only hit. I was reading a survey of the greatest albums of all time and as to be expected there is Pet Sounds sitting in the top ten. There was one review that really express my feelings about this group and their album. How could Brain Wilson spend all that time and money in a studio and only come away with an album of teenage love songs?
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Best VU Documentary!
jonathanndeflep22 October 2021
I've seen several docs but this one covered a lot of the NYC environment during the time period! Wish Lou, Sterling, and Doug would have been there in the flesh! Very well made and awesome ending. Would definitely recommend to VU and music and art lovers alike!
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A Job Well Done
fablalumia15 October 2021
Great long overdue homage to the band that kicked started what became 'punk rock' at Max's Kansas City in New York..Looking forward to more of this type of subject mater.
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Couldn't Get Past Annoying Audio Mix
nikki-5338618 October 2021
The good: Really good use of archival footage, even clips of obvious poor or deteriorating quality are worked in successfully Some insights into the band members for the casual fan Creative use of split screen The bad: The audio. I can't stress how annoying the mix is: spoken word is inaudible; adjust to hear it and the music is club-level. Had to watch the entire movie riding the volume button.

Could I look past it? Yes, but I shouldn't have to.
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I just don't know
jim4gl21 October 2021
How this documentary is received by the viewer with limited VU knowledge. As a VU fan this was a breath of fresh air, no Bockris led Reed expose. The center was on the band, and it peeled back the banana and threw away the peel. I liked the efforts taken to represent the band members and Lou's family.

Why a 9 vs 10. I admit this 2 hours was chock full of footage and insiders. Not a lot they left out, woulda liked an Iggy Pop cameo or Jim Carroll audio or abrasive Cher or Zappa comments, Lincoln Swadis mention, Robert Quine, but I appreciate that they kept this as a discreet length.
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