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Todd Haynes is Directing Another Music Movie, But This Time It’s a Documentary

The filmmaker’s first nonfiction effort will focus on The Velvet Underground.
Todd Haynes For Wonderstruck Portrait
By  · Published on January 29th, 2018

The filmmaker’s first nonfiction effort will focus on The Velvet Underground.

Oscar-nominated director Todd Haynes has finally received the blessing of both Polygram Entertainment and Verve Label Group to make The Velvet Underground, the “definitive documentary” about the band of the same name.

While Haynes had first revealed the project last August, the deal was only made official just last week. Haynes and regular producing partner Christine Vachon confirmed the news over the weekend with a “first look video” presented at Sir Lucian Grainge’s 2018 Artist Showcase. Haynes will also co-produce the film.

“I couldn’t be more excited to be embarking on this project with the folks at Universal Music Group, a documentary — my first, in fact — about one of the most radical and influential rock bands in the world of music: The Velvet Underground,” Haynes said of the project.

While this is indeed Haynes’s first documentary, it is far from his first exploration into the world of music. He first received notice as a filmmaker for the cult classic Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, which takes an unconventional look at the life and death of Karen Carpenter of The Carpenters using Barbie dolls and meticulously built dollhouse sets.

And a decade later, Velvet Goldmine, Haynes’s loving homage to glam rock, features a character (Ewan McGregor’s “Curt Wild”) based loosely on both Iggy Pop and The Velvet Underground frontman Lou Reed. In fact, the character’s band in the film, Venus in Furs, is a reference to the Velvet Underground song of the same name.

Haynes’s most recent film on a musician, the critically-acclaimed I’m Not There, creatively used intersecting storylines and multiple actors to tell a story inspired by the life and career of Bob Dylan.

While this project appears to be taking a much more direct approach than his other musician-inspired films, Haynes has been quoted as saying that he would “rely certainly on [Andy] Warhol films but also a rich culture of experimental film, a vernacular we have lost and we don’t have, we increasingly get further removed from.”

Haynes’s devotion to postmodern ideals through progressive, charged themes of sexuality and identity is a recurring motif in his films and should prove to be perfect for The Velvet Underground.

While the band is now pointed to as an example of how newer postmodern music is inferior to the bands of old, at their peak The Velvet Underground were a definitive ode to counterculture. Their heyday in the ‘60s and ‘70s was infused with subversive themes, avant-garde glam punk, and ambiguous, intense sexuality — something Haynes’s work is no stranger to.

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