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Lou Reed's Berlin
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by Jason Whyte

"Lou Reed's Heart of Gold."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2008 SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST FESTIVAL: You’d think that after listening to the music in the pretty much perfect music film “Lou Reed’s Berlin”, that the album of the title would have been more regarded over the years. Upon its release in 1975, the album was not a commercial success yet the legacy of Lou Reed lives on. I mean, the guy who got the Velvet Underground off the ground and a long and successful solo career…what’s not to like? (I’ll always remember him for his extended cameo in the “Smoke” sequel “Blue in the Face” where he talks about his removable glass lenses and the health tool that is cigarettes.)

Still, the album has not been given its fair share until now. Here, we are given a strong 90 minutes of music and images as “Berlin” is given back to its fans by way of a filmed performance. “Berlin” is set to the wild direction of Julian Schnabel (whose film “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” is still lurking around in a few cinemas, so check it out) and as always, the powerful camerawork of Ellen Kuras (Neil Young Heart of Gold, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and of course, the music of Lou Reed and his band.

And boy, what music it is. The film was shot over a few nights as Schnabel combines some colorful, dreamlike interludes along with concert footage (shot in Brooklyn) that looks all too intimate of a performance. Some of the concert footage reminds me slightly of the works of Jonathan Demme, but this is not a “Stop Making Sense” rip off. Rather, we are given a look not only a window into what it is like to perform, but how the music bounces off our memory. Some of the pieces are simple melodies, while others shake the room with their epic tones, backing choir and strong guitar.

I could not take my eyes off the screen for a second. There’s just something about Reed’s presence today, the kind of weathered look that when you see his face you see decades of history, stories and probably even a bit of sadness. Normally the music is always personal to the one performing it yet it seems absolutely true here, as you become one with the music and the man on stage. This is thanks to Schnabel and Kuras’ work here, who know how to visually entertain but also to give a bit of distance to the subject to let them shine (and as always, my thanks for not including any gratuitous crowd shots. They are not needed).

No matter what your personal opinion is on “Berlin” or Lou Reed, you can’t deny that there is talent to spare in this film. If this movie is planning to come your way (it should be in limited release over the summer), demand that the film is booked into a cinema with top-notch projection and Dolby Digital sound capabilities, as this rockin’ film requires a room strong enough to let “Berlin” stand out.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=16519&reviewer=350
originally posted: 04/07/08 02:12:34
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2008 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

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  DVD: 16-Sep-2008


  DVD: 16-Sep-2008

Directed by
  Julian Schnabel

Written by

  Lou Reed

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