The Velvet Underground: rocking it, Todd Haynes style

Picture of the movie The Velvet Underground © RR


With The Velvet Underground, Todd Haynes pulls back the curtain for a closer look at the 1960s band born in New York and produced by Andy Warhol: a cultural phenomenon that would go on to revolutionise the face of rock 'n' roll on a global scale in a mere four years. A musical ode screened Out of Competition and offered up four years after Wonderstruck, and six years after Carol was showcased in Competition in 2015, scooping actor Rooney Mara the Best Actress Award.

This isn't the prolific director's first musical. Back in the days when the British glam rock scene was at its apex, Velvet Goldmine was in Competition in 1998, following the twists and turns of a star played by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, featuring a leading man heavily inspired by Ziggy Stardust and David Bowie, supported by Curt Wild, a character with strong overtones of Iggy Pop and Velvet Underground frontman Lou Reed, while 2007's I’m Not There drew on the life of icon Bob Dylan.

Having become one of the world's most acclaimed rock bands in a matter of years, the legendary Velvet Underground was inextricably bound with Warhol's Factory, and was fronted by singer Nico for a while, as well as Lou Reed, the band's guitarist, vocalist, and one of its main songwriters. Todd Haynes' film seeks to examine how the band that conquered the music scene of the 1960s and 1970s became a cultural icon in its own right, a symbol of a patchwork of contradictions: music as timeless as it was of its time, with literary- and realism-inflected sounds deeply rooted in both high art and street culture.