The Velvet Underground: Under Review (Sexy Intellectual)

It seems that the “Independent Critical Analysis” tag was stuck on it so that people buying it wouldn’t expect a bunch of interviews with Lou Reed or John Cale or anyone like that (of which there are none, although both Mo Tucker and Doug Yule get their due), and instead expect a bunch of interviews with music scholars and the like (of which there are plenty).

 

 

Cheapie DVDs of bands come out all the time that either attempt to be concert films or documentaries of the band’s history (sometimes both). However, the quality of choices of Sexy Intellectual’s recent DVD releases led me to believe that there might be some merit here.

The Velvet Underground: Under Review has the subtitle “An Independent Critical Analysis,” so I was unclear about what to expect, except that it hopefully wouldn’t be like the typical quickie Good Charlotte doc. In reality, the DVD is a British production and a pretty straightforward documentary; it seems that the “Independent Critical Analysis” tag was stuck on it so that people buying it wouldn’t expect a bunch of interviews with Lou Reed or John Cale or anyone like that (of which there are none, although both Mo Tucker and Doug Yule get their due), and instead expect a bunch of interviews with music scholars and the like (of which there are plenty). Still, the film plays more as a piece of entertainment than a dissertation on the band, which is nice.

There’s not really much here that most Velvets fans wouldn’t already know (if you know that both the band’s name and the song title “Venus in Furs” were cribbed from titles of old S&M novels, you probably won’t learn anything from the film), and the back-of-the-DVD promises of live footage go mostly unfulfilled—they’re there, but in about 15-second clips, max. Despite all of these setbacks, the film is entertaining, and also, curiously enough, the sound is fantastic, and some of the songs in the film sound better on the DVD than they do on CD. The DVD only has a stereo mix; no wacky Dolby 5.1 mixes or anything like that, so it’s all the more unlikely that the sound is as good as it is.
The bonus features are pretty scarce (the most interesting one is “The Hardest Velvets Interactive Quiz in the World Ever”), but at least they are tucked away in a menu modeled amusingly after Andy Warhol’s iconic The Velvet Underground and Nico album cover. Ultimately, it seems like this DVD package would be a huge disappointment when the details of the release are inspected, but instead it is thoroughly fulfilling, and leaves the viewer amped up to go listen to all of their VU albums on repeat.

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