Shots flash by in a confused rhythm:
a black-and-white Mickey Mouse cartoon,
newspapers, late night shows,
Guess what? American mainstream culture of the 60s. But as soon as we get under its skin, the sensuously hypnotic sound of Venus In Furs is bumping. This cyclical melody rhymes with the noise of New York, where everything is not the same as everywhere else.
Todd Haynes‘ filmography, imbued with a nostalgic melancholy for decades long gone, is proof of his unconditional and devoted love for the exalted and magnetic musical aesthetics of the 20th century. Stories about famous people and significant events abound. The Velvet Underground documentary in fact doesn’t fit into any genre and is perceived rather as a mosaic portrait captured on camera, assembled from video chronicles, archival photographs, interviews and fragments of experimental cinema of those times. At the emotional level, Todd Haynes’ film works with the audience in exactly the same way as the American underground cinema of the last century, in the spirit of Jonas Mekas or Andy Warhol (both, of course, are in the film). Andy was an artist and a producer, a conceptualist with a mission, a celebrated figure of the world of nightlife and fashion journalism. He knew the price of pain, appreciated scars and declared his love for everyone. His red carpets lead to eternity, where he will stay forever. The music of The Velvet Underground mixes an experimental search for how to sound elegant and brutal at the same time. Lou Reed knew what proud despair meant. Later in his life he recorded “Sad Song” for his great Berlin album. It mentions the unfortunate Mary Queen of Scots and narrates a story of the suicide of a beloved girl, also providing some incredibly euphoric overtures replete with cascades of arpeggios and a chorus of people endlessly, very lightly repeating “sad song, sad, sad song”. That’s how sadness may have looked when viewed through the lens of the countercultural festivities of the 60s.