Oscar-nominated director Todd Haynes announced today that he will team with Polygram Entertainment and Verve Label Group for The Velvet Underground, a feature documentary on about one of the most influential rock bands of all time.
Haynes, along with Christine Vachon, announced the news today with a first look video at Sir Lucian Grainge’s 2018 Artist Showcase. Haynes will direct and produce the documentary which will trace multiple threads leading to the band’s formation and their impact on music and global culture.
Fresh off of Wonderstruck, The Velvet Underground marks Haynes’ first documentary project. Through drama, though, Haynes has explored such music and literary legends as Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Karen Carpenter, Jean Genet and Arthur Rimbaud.
Said Haynes of the project: “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.”
Danny Bennett, President and CEO of Verve Label Group, added, “Verve Records signed The Velvet Underground in the ’60s to expand and build upon its iconic jazz history and push the musical envelope, and without a doubt they have become one of the most influential bands of all time.”
He continues, “Their recordings not only challenged the status quo, they created a new generation of music that continues to be a major influence even today. It has been a dream of mine to produce the definitive documentary of The Velvet Underground and I’m humbled and proud to be part of this production. This ambitious, meaningful and engaging story could only be told by Todd Haynes and I’m thrilled for fans, in particular, new fans, to experience The Velvet Underground story within the context of the time period.”
“Once again, Polygram is bringing together great filmmakers and musical artists to tell unique and compelling stories,” said David Blackman, head of Polygram Entertainment. “Todd Haynes’ brilliance as a director and producer is closely matched by his love and passion for music. I can think of nobody better to pull together all of threads of The Velvet Underground story.”
A Killer Content and Motto Pictures Production, the film’s producers include Haynes, Vachon, Julie Goldman, Chris Clements, David Blackman for Polygram Entertainment, and executive producers Danny Bennett for Verve, and Carolyn Hepburn. The film has received the support of founding Velvet Underground member John Cale and Laurie Anderson, the artist and partner of the Velvet’s late Lou Reed.
‘Antebellum’ has a ‘Get Out’ vibe, but doesn’t live up to its twist
“Antebellum” is built around a provocative twist, and it’s a good one — as well as one that definite..
“Antebellum” is built around a provocative twist, and it’s a good one — as well as one that definitely shouldn’t be spoiled even a little. Once that revelation is absorbed, however, the movie becomes less distinctive and inspired, reflecting an attempt to tap into the zeitgeist that made “Get Out” a breakthrough, without the same ability to pay off the premise.
Originally destined for a theatrical run, the movie hits digital platforms trumpeting a “Get Out” pedigree in its marketing campaign, since there’s an overlap among the producing teams.
More directly, the film marks the directing debut of Gerard Bush + Christopher Renz, who have championed social-justice issues through their advertising work. The opening script features a quote from author William Faulkner, whose intent will eventually become clearer: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
If that sounds like a timely means of drawing a line from the horrors of slavery to the racism of today, you’ve come to the right place.
The story begins on a plantation, where the brutal overseers carry out grisly punishments against those tilling the fields. A few have just tried to escape, led by Veronica (Janelle Monae), and they pay a heavy price for their resistance, which does nothing to curb her defiance.
Also written by Bush + Renz, the script take too long before revealing what makes “Antebellum” different, but the middle portion — a “The Twilight Zone”-like phase when it’s hard to be sure exactly what’s going on — is actually the film’s strongest. (Even the trailer arguably gives away too much, so the less one knows, the better.)
The final stretch, by contrast, veers into more familiar thriller territory, and feels especially rushed toward the end, leaving behind a host of nagging, unanswered questions. That provides food for thought, but it’s also what separates the movie from something like “Get Out,” which deftly fleshed out its horror underpinnings.
Although the filmmakers (in a taped message) expressed disappointment that the movie wasn’t making its debut in theaters, in a strange way, the on-demand format somewhat works in its favor. In the press notes, Bush says the goal was “to force the audience to look at the real-life horror of racism through the lens of film horror. We’re landing in the middle of the very conversations that we hoped ‘Antebellum’ would spur.”
“Antebellum” should add to that discussion, so mission accomplished on that level. Monae is also quite good in her first leading film role (she did previously star in the series “Homecoming’s” second season), but otherwise, most of the characters remain underdeveloped.