The curious tale of Lou Reed's 1973 album, BERLIN, is worthy of a documentary in itself. Its trajectory from critical and commercial failure to one of the most highly regarded records in his canon has vindicated Reed's vision for the album. This concert film was shot 33 years after the former Velvet Underground frontman unleashed BERLIN on the world. A remarkable critical volte-face has occurred in the intervening years, although Reed has rarely performed material from the album. Director Julian Schnabel (THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY) headed to St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, New York, at the tail end of 2006 to shoot this document of BERLIN's live resurrection. The film is culled from a five-night stint at the venue in which Reed, and a host of guest performers, brought the album back to life.
Schnabel's movie is no ordinary concert film. The director designed the sets Reed and his band perform on, and his daughter, Lola, shot footage that brings to life the album's central character, Caroline. Schnabel has talked openly about the huge influence BERLIN has had on his work, and he clearly has a great deal of reverence for Reed as an artist. The film is shot mostly with shaky handheld cameras that provide a satisfying replication of the concert-going experience. Cinematographer Ellen Kuras (ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND) deserves credit for turning a relatively straightforward concert film into a visually stimulating affair, and actor Emmanuelle Seigner, who plays Caroline, perfectly captures the character. But it's the combination of Reed's music and Schnabel's vision that makes LOU REED'S BERLIN such a gratifying audiovisual experience.