out of Five
Running time: 87
Watchable concert film thanks to Lou Reed's impressive stage presence, some decent, if depressing songs and Schnabel's decision to include inserts of an attractive actress (Emmanuelle Seigner).
What's it all about?
Directed by Julian Schnabel, Lou Reed's Berlin is a concert film shot over five nights in December 2006 at St Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn. The film is of special interest to Lou Reed fans because it features songs from his 1973 album Berlin, the commercial failure of which meant that Reed had never previously performed the album live.
Lasting just 87 minutes (including a crowd-pleasing encore of Sweet Jane that plays over the end credits), the film is shot in a basic style with only one shot of the audience. However, the band play in front of an elaborately decorated backdrop, against which are projected several pieces of film, some of which feature French actress Emmanuelle Seigner.
The most striking thing about the film is Reed's stage presence – his craggy face reminds you of a cleaner-living Keith Richards, while he has the sort of voice that makes you wish he did more acting. As for the songs, they are primarily (according to the press notes) "about love's dark sisters: jealousy, rage and loss" and feature such cheery lines as "This is the place where she cut her wrists", "They're taking her children away" and "She put her fist through a window pane".
Schnabel keeps the direction fairly simple, though his camera does occasionally pick out interesting details of the performers, such as the guitarist's woolly hat, some writing on the drumsticks or the bandleader's weird jacket with 'Berlin' written on it.
To be fair, the filmed inserts don't really add anything as there's no real plot behind them. It's also unclear as to whether the audience can see them as clearly as we can, since there's no obvious screen for them to be projected on.
If you're a massive Lou Reed fan, then this is presumably unmissable stuff. Otherwise, it's an entirely watchable concert movie, providing depressing songs are your thing.