The Velvet Underground and Nico

Director: Andy Warhol
Screenwriters: John Sayles

Institute History

  • 1994 Sundance Film Festival


In 1965, Paul Morrissey introduced Andy Warhol to the band The Velvet Underground, whose chief composers were Lou Reed and John Cale. Meeting with little success, the band sometimes resorted to selling blood to make ends meet. Their music radiated an air of hostility and malevolence with lyrics that were decadent and perverse. In short order, the Velvets became the house band at Warhol's Factory, where their decibel level surpassed even the opera records that blared at all hours.

Although others had experimentally combined music and film, the collaboration between Warhol and the Velvets was truly unique. To increase the band's charisma, Warhol sought the services of Nico, a statuesque blond German model who was eager to make a name for herself as a singer. Mysterious and gloomy. the introverted chanteuse became known as the "moon goddess."

In this film of a jam session, Nico sits on a stool as the musicians form a semicircle behind her. During two reels of long takes, the band performs music one critic described as sounding like “a schooner breaking up on the rocks .” So loud were they that the film Includes footage of actual police officers arriving In response to complaints. In the film, members of the band and entourage mug for the camera, while Warhol practices his unique style of "meaningless close-ups .” Within this psychedelic viewing experience, the camera creates a Visual noise, “playing” with the band by panning and zooming to the music

Friday Jan 28 Midnight
Egyptian Theatre

— Lois Vossen

Screening Details

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