Remembering the Velvet Underground through the Looking Glass of Film

In their time, the Velvet Underground borders on the impenetrable, a band that tempers pop curiosity with avant-garde abrasion. Led for a time by Andy Warhol, it wasn’t particularly successful by commercial metrics, but the band – which included Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison and Moe Tucker – provided an early counter-narrative to the counter- centrist peace and love culture of the 1960s., and proved deeply influential.

The band are remembered in “The Velvet Underground,” a new documentary directed by Todd Haynes, who has made unconventional musical films for the past two decades. This film is a deep dive into the New York half-world that gave birth to the group, but also a reflection on cinema and art today.

In this week’s Popcast, a conversation about how the Velvet Underground was experienced in its time, how the band’s musical aesthetic matches the visual aesthetic of film, and the state of contemporary music documentaries.


  • Jon Pareles, New York Times Chief Pop Music Critic

  • AO Scott, Co-Chief Film Critic of The New York Times

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