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[Cannes '21] 'The Velvet Underground' review: How to be elegant and brutal

Movie Reviews

[Cannes ’21] ‘The Velvet Underground’ review: How to be elegant and brutal

A spike to the vein.

This year has seen some strong documentaries about iconic musicians and their music. Filmmaker Todd Haynes focuses on the eponymous band and examines their lasting impact on music. The iconic group has been cited as an influence from many different types of artists in various mediums and genres despite finding very little success during they prime.

As expected, there are plenty of interviews to be found in the film. The difference here is Haynes only talks to people who there during the heyday of the group. This brings an authenticity to The Velvet Underground that goes beyond the gushing and praise usually found in these types of documentaries. Instead, there is a greater sense as to why a band that barely moved the needle when they were playing and recording together means so much to so many today.

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The Velvet Underground is filled with powerful voices. From the deceased Lou Reed and Andy Warhol to only surviving original members John Cale and Maureen “Moe” Tucker, the documentary paints a picture of a time and a feeling. Listening today to the band’s classics, it is easy to discover why they were underappreciated during their time – and why they came to be so lauded in subsequent years.

the velvet underground

The never seen before footage that is liberally sprinkled throughout the documentary also take the audience to Warhol’s world. Haynes goes beyond the “Factory” and takes audiences to the world from which The Velvet Underground were born. It gives a complete picture of the band that provides insight to the genesis of their indescribable sound.

Unsurprisingly, the soundtrack is filled with songs from the band’s impressive catalogue. The music is timed perfectly with the narrative of the film. This will make the documentary accessible to even those who are not necessarily fans. This also adds to the genuine quality of The Velvet Underground. It is clear Haynes put real thought and love into his film.

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