Todd Haynes reinvented the music biopic not as soon as however twice, first with the controversial glam rock epic Velvet Goldmine (1998), a pastiche of the life and occasions of David Bowie, after which with 2007’s I’m Not There, a dazzlingly surreal have a look at the numerous faces of people poet Bob Dylan, sanctioned by the person himself. His newest, bankrolled by Apple TV+, might sound tame by comparability; a documentary about The Velvet Underground, it traces how Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker—4 disparate Manhattan musos shepherded by pop-art legend Andy Warhol—modified rock and roll perpetually.
DEADLINE: What do The Velvet Underground imply to you personally?
TODD HAYNES: It’s laborious to overstate their affect as a band. I found them at a selected time in my life, most likely the very starting of my school years, and [in them] I positioned the roots of quite a lot of different music that I used to be already getting deeply influenced and impressed by—artists like David Bowie, Roxy Music and Brian Eno.
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I feel it’s true what Brian Eno famously stated about The Velvet Underground, that hardly anyone purchased a Velvet Underground document on the time, however all people who did began a band.
DEADLINE: You’ve made movies about music earlier than, however in a fictional manner. Was that an choice right here?
HAYNES: No. I feel fairly early on it grew to become clear to me, when taking a look at this era in New York tradition, that the superb, outstanding factor about The Velvet Underground is that they got here into being on the time when Andy Warhol was giving up visible arts for filmmaking. And that was simply the tip of the iceberg, as a result of there have been so many different avant-garde filmmakers working and galvanizing one another and taking part in one another’s movies. And what that meant to me, with regard to what a movie concerning the Velvets may very well be, was that I needed to make use of the visible language of those movies, as a foreground/background template for speaking about this music, and the way the band got here into being, as a result of it was throughout them. The visible language of movie, of artwork, and of that point was one thing that you simply wouldn’t ever wish to must recreate. You wouldn’t ever wish to have to show it right into a fiction.
DEADLINE: How did you begin? Did you may have a really clear concept of the place you needed to go?
HAYNES: I did, to the diploma that I knew I didn’t desire a film with quite a lot of later generations of artists or musicians telling us how nice The Velvet Underground have been. I needed to return to that historic and cultural time and place, which by at this time’s commonplace, feels much more utterly alien to inventive practices at this time, even within the films which are being made in marginal locations. There was simply such an explosion of artwork and experimentation. So, I instantly questioned how we might make this the visible language of the film. And, by the identical token, I assumed, OK, the rule will probably be, we solely interview individuals who have been there. And then it was actually about accessing archives, which is the method that took the longest. I now know the way documentaries can take so lengthy to be constructed, since you’re actually writing them as you’re making them.
DEADLINE: Did you ever meet Lou Reed?
HAYNES: I want I had. I’d see him round New York at occasions, just like the Biennial on the Whitney, and I used to be all the time too fucking terrified to ever thrust myself upon him. And I used to be most likely smart, from all of the tales you hear from individuals who did. But I’ve a sense he could have been conscious of my work. He allow us to use “Satellite of Love”, for example, in Velvet Goldmine, when he was nonetheless round.
DEADLINE: How does he characteristic within the movie?
HAYNES: He was a structuring absence for the movie, and we addressed that in a wide range of methods, definitely by placing individuals in who knew him properly rising up and will discuss his evolution.
John Cale is absolutely our centerpiece interview by way of the movie, and Maureen Tucker was a tremendous particular person to speak to as properly, as a result of, when issues bought unstable between the 2 males, she was simply this recurrent peacemaker and somebody who Lou simply adored and had put in a spot of security and belief—one thing he didn’t typically do with individuals. So, we have been capable of actually hear about him. Also, his voice and his interviews are there. His presence is absolutely felt within the movie, and his voice, in fact, is within the music.
DEADLINE: How concerning the likes of Nico and Andy Warhol—are you taking a look at all of the individuals within the band’s orbit?
HAYNES: Oh certain. Well, the story is about how this unlikely assortment of individuals got here collectively. That’s most likely constructed into the tales of most bands, however on this case, there have been simply distinctive and unusual circumstances. And as soon as the Velvets actually coalesced, Andy Warhol’s Factory was a magnet for inventive exercise. It needed to be part of the story that he was their first “manager”. He was the explanation why individuals went to see these exhibits, initially. No one knew who The Velvet Underground have been, they went to see an Andy Warhol taking place, so he was the driving pressure. In truth, it’s a subject within the movie, that they nearly began to really feel they have been somewhat experimental exhibition of creatures who have been being placed on stage. Warhol famously needed to place Nico in a plexiglass field, which she in fact refused.
DEADLINE: And what about Nico?
HAYNES: The band was actually fascinated with Nico across the time [New York socialite] Edie Sedgwick was beginning to fall out with Warhol. And Nico, who Warhol had met two years earlier than, however was spending increasingly more time within the Factory, was this astonishing-looking lady and unusual darkish character. No one actually knew what her musical skills can be, and in reality, initially, her limitations have been worrying. But John Cale and Lou Reed actually found out what to do and learn how to use her, in a manner that was so particular and so good, actually. You can’t think about anyone else singing the songs that she sang within the band.
DEADLINE: The Velvet Underground’s official albums are endlessly being repackaged. Is there any uncommon or unheard music?
HAYNES: There is. Most of the fabric of reside performances and demos have been launched over time, however there have been rehearsal tapes we bought from [Reed’s widow] Laurie Anderson which are outstanding. We use a few of that within the movie. There are reside tapes of Lou Reed performing his lyrics at poetry readings in 1970 in New York which are so lovely to listen to. And then there have been recordings of conversations that Danny Fields, a colleague of Lou Reed, gave us, the place he was speaking with him, any person he actually trusted, which was completely different to how he would behave with journalists. And we additionally discovered some videotape footage of the band in 1968, performing after John Cale had left the band. Stuff that has by no means, I don’t consider, ever been publicly seen earlier than.
We tried to combine all the things, I suppose, in a manner that feels prefer it flows and strikes emotionally by way of the course of the band, and the modifications within the band. Because the music is so well-known, probably as a result of there’s not that a lot of it, I needed you to really feel you have been listening to it afresh, so that you’d really feel what it would’ve been like to listen to it then and there.
DEADLINE: How does it really feel to be bringing the movie to Cannes?
HAYNES: Oh, it’s so thrilling. Especially in spite of everything of us being so locked up and questioning if we’ll ever see a film on a display screen once more… seeing it large and, in fact, listening to the music at its finest in an enormous theater, is an especially highly effective solution to expertise it. There’ll be no higher venue on the planet than the Lumière theater in Cannes.