Monday, October 28, 2013

Lou Reed (1942-2013): Berlin, Trainspotting, Velvet Goldmine, Red Shirley

Lou Reed passed away yesterday, at age 71.  The ideal tribute would be to showcase his Warhol Screen Tests, but many of those posted online have unfortunate soundtracks added.  No longer streaming on Netflix, but still available on DVD, is 13 Most Beautiful...Songs for Andy Warhol's Screen Tests, which features Reed as well as Paul America, Dennis Hopper, Nico, Edie Sedgwick, Ingrid Superstar and Mary Woronov among others (be sure to watch the tear roll down the cheek of the non-blinking Ann Buchanan).  If you look hard enough, you might even find a copy of Raro Video's DVD of Vinyl and The Velvet Underground and Nico.

There are many official and unofficial streams of Velvet Underground and Lou Reed performances, and one in particular worth pointing out is the Ronald Nameth film Andy Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable with The Velvet Underground on UbuWeb.  And, of course, the first appearance of the Velvet Underground in January, 1966 at the Annual Dinner of the New York Society for Clinical Psychiatry at the Delmonico Hotel is briefly featured in various manifestations of Jonas Mekas's diary films, including Walden: Diaries, Notes, and Sketches and Scenes from the Life of Andy Warhol.

There was a stretch in the late 1990s where Reed's songs appeared in several memorable cinematic moments in narrative features, most notably Trainspotting and Velvet Goldmine, which are currently streaming on Netflix (see below). Perhaps there could have been one more if he had not objected to I Shot Andy Warhol in 1996. He appears as "himself" in at least five feature films: Permanent Record (1988), Faraway, So Close! (1993), Closure (1997), Prozac Nation (2001) and Palermo Shooting (2008). He's credited in Blue in the Face (1995) as "Man with Strange Glasses" and in Lulu on the Bridge (1998) as "Not Lou Reed." He also provides the singing voice for some of Mok's songs in the animated feature Rock and Rule (1983).

I did not realize until surfing the internet tributes to Reed that he directed a 27-minute documentary short, Red Shirley (2010), about his 99-year-old cousin. Red Shirley is currently streaming at SnagFilms.

Jim Healy and the UW-Cinematheque Facebook page posted a memorial link to this collection of Lou Reed's scenes from Get Crazy (1983), which they screened last year.

Posters and Synopses from The Movie Database

Lou Reed's Berlin (Julian Schnabel, USA, 2007, 85 minutes)

Lou Reed recorded the album Berlin in 1973. It was a commercial failure. Over the next 33 years, he never performed the album live. For five nights in December 2006 at St. Ann's Warehouse Brooklyn, Lou Reed performed his masterwork about love's dark sisters: jealousy, rage and loss.

Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, UK, 1996, 93 minutes)

Renton is living the dream and that dream is Heroin. As Renton struggles with the agony and ecstasy of his life we follow him and his increasingly unstable mates. Drinking, fighting, drugs, sex and the most disgusting toilet in Scotland.

Velvet Goldmine (Todd Haynes, USA, 1998, 119 minutes)

In 1984, British newspaper reporter Arthur Stuart is investigating the career of 1970s glam rock star Brian Slade, who was heavily influenced in his early years by American rock singer Curt Wild, whose show was quite crazy for his time.

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