Cannes Report Day 3: Todd Haynes’ ‘Velvet Underground’ Doc ‘Rips,’ Tilda Swinton’s 5-Film Festival

Cannes 2021: Polish director Agnieszka Holland also fears indie films can “vanish” on streamers

"The Velvet Underground" Todd Haynes Cannes
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If a handful of people who all saw The Velvet Underground in the ’60s went out and started bands, how many of the people who watched Todd Haynes documentary at Cannes will go out and make their own movies?

It turns out that Haynes film “rips,” as Indiewire critic David Ehrlich put it in a tweet, with critics praising the film’s unconventional approach to the rock doc, working around how little footage of the Velvets actually exists, not to mention even archival interviews with members of the band while they were still alive. But the film also avoids being a strict portrait of the band or needing to convince us The Velvet Underground were important.

“It’s a dark, disturbing and glorious film about a dark, disturbing and glorious band, and another sign that Haynes knows how to put music on screen in a way that few other directors do,” TheWrap’s Steve Pond wrote in his review.

In a press event on Thursday morning, Haynes explained how he utilized old, iconic screen tests of Lou Reed as an overarching presence for the film that made up for the absence of other video footage of him in which we only hear him through voiceover. “All of a sudden you feel like the person is there. They’re breathing, they’re holding still, but there’s little glances that they make that seem to almost be referring to things that we are then stating and depicting in the frame beside it,” Haynes said Thursday. “And so you really feel like you’re in the time and place in an extraordinary way, with an original 60mm reel of Lou Reed sitting with half shadow and half light on his face.”

Haynes also confirmed on the red carpet at Cannes that he’ll be going back to narrative filmmaking after “The Velvet Underground,” with plans to shoot his previously announced Peggy Lee biopic “Fever” starring Michelle Williams late this fall, according to Awards Watch’s Erik Anderson.

Check out a teaser for “The Velvet Underground” below:

Tilda Swinton Kicks Off a Long Road Trip

Tilda Swinton has a long Cannes in front of her. She will be representing five films at the festival, starting with Thursday’s screening of “The Souvenir Part 2” from director Joanna Hogg. This film though Swinton said is actually some what “autobiographical.”

Swinton explained to the crowd at the screening that there’s a graduation scene in the film involving her daughter, Honor Swinton Byrne, that is based on a short film Swinton herself starred in from Hogg decades earlier. As a result, Swinton loaned her daughter old clothes from that time period, and the finished project was for her “a trip.” Swinton and her daughter could even be seen embracing in a big hug after the screening.

However, Swinton also said (via Variety) that it’s “irrelevant” that she and Honor are mother and daughter, as “The Souvenir Part II” is an “autobiographical film about a family that’s actually not my family.”

Agnieszka Holland Hopes Indies Don’t “Vanish” on Streamers

Agnieszka Holland, the famed Polish director of “Europa Europa” and also the European Film Academy President, spoke on a Cannes Market panel on Thursday about streaming platforms and her fear that indie films go there and simply “vanish” based on the service’s algorithms, and that streamers need dedicated curators to make sure good films are kept top of mind.

“They have become some kind of non-curated, big black hole where our more fragile and personal products can disappear and vanish,” she said (via Deadline). “The platforms are great but they’re not curated, they’re curated only by the algorithms. We need the real curators, the festivals, academies, critics. We need producers who will fight for a voice that is unique, rare, ambitious and challenging.”

While Holland acknowledged that it’s becoming more challenging for smaller and foreign language films to find distribution internationally without the aid of appearing on a Netflix or Amazon, another producer speaking on the panel took a different view about streamers.

“We’re not attacked by streamers, we’re attacked by a virus. The virus is the reason that theaters had to shut down. Streamers are not our enemies, we work with them regularly, they’re smart people,” Martin Moszkowicz of Constantin Film said on the panel. “I don’t want to contradict Mrs. Holland, it’s all correct what she said, but it’s not all about algorithms, they are people who love what we are all about. I don’t see them as an enemy. There is lots of data that shows that people who use steamers a lot go to the movies a lot, if they can.”

Check out TheWrap’s digital Cannes magazine issue here. You can find all of TheWrap’s Cannes coverage here.

TheWrap Cannes issue cover


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