Released on DVD this week, Julian Schnabel’s Berlin is to concert films as Lou Reed is to aging frontmen. Filmed over five nights in December of 2006, Berlin documents the first time Reed’s maligned album of the same name was performed live in its entirely. While it suffers from the traditional pitfalls of concert films (ubiquitous close-ups of guitar necks, etc), Schnabel manages to add visual flash by cutting away to footage of actress Emmanuel Seigner (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) and vintage Reed in his sinewy, sunglass-donning prime. But the film’s greatest moments come quietly, when the camera holds on Reed as he pushes up his eyeglasses and runs his fingers through wisps of thinning hair. Those are the moments that capture the ephemerality of rock stardom and the permanence of truly honest work—like the film and the album it’s dedicated to.
October 02, 2008