The Velvet Underground Documentary Premieres at Cannes Film Festival
07 Jul 2021
Todd Haynes' highly anticipated documentary on the Velvet Underground got its world premiere this week (July 7) at Cannes Film Festival. The documentary, aptly titled The Velvet Underground, has been in the making for four years after facing significant delay due to the pandemic, and is scheduled for general release on Apple TV on October 15.
The documentary promises a mix of never-before-seen footage of the New York band and interviews with the Velvet Underground's surviving members, John Cale and Maureen Tucker, both of whom gave their full cooperation. It's also set to feature interviews with other "key players" from the band's golden era.
The Velvet Underground isn't the first time Todd Haynes has ventured into music films. Haynes is the director behind the 1998 glam-rock film Velvet Goldmine, and the writer/director of I'm Not There, the avant-garde fictional biopic based on Bob Dylan, a film regarded by some music critics as one of the best biopics ever made despite its lack of linear structure.
It could come as a surprise, though, given the Velvet Underground's visual background - they were backed by Andy Warhol for a large portion of the sixties - that it's the first documentary on the band, especially given their influential status. It could be due to the lack of live footage from the band, something that's usually used in similar rock documentaries. Instead, Haynes included Warhol films, experimental films, and photography, or as he explained to Entertainment Weekly, "seize upon the visual world that was occurring in the '60s in New York that made this band possible."
As the band's frontman and songwriter, Lou Reed is set to be a main point of focus within the documentary. Haynes described him to EW as someone with "such extraordinary wit and clarity and drive." After the Velvet Underground's demise at the beginning of the seventies, Lou Reed would go on to make one of the greatest albums of all time, Transformer. Produced by David Bowie and arranged by Mick Ronson, Transformer would finally bring Reed mainstream recognition and, soon after, bring the Velvet Underground delayed success.
Lou Reed's time through the seventies and beyond is chronicled in the Transformer book, where Reed and photographer Mick Rock discuss the era and their friendship in a completely original, no-holds-barred dialogue. The authors recall walking 60 blocks of New York in the snow, the 'TV tour', staying awake for nights on end creating visuals and discussing poetry, alongside Reed's choice of photographs, from the famous to the never-before-seen.