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Lou Reed Berlin

4.6 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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(Sep 30, 2008)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Lou Reed co-founder of The Velvet Underground and the man behind such iconic rock songs as Sweet Jane and Walk on the Wild Side stars in one of the most satisfying concert films (Lee Marshall, Screen International) in decades. Oscar-nominated director Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) captures this historic moment in time, as Reed performed his legendary 1973 album, Berlin, live for the first time. Rocking horns, soulful guitar and the angelic voices of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus bring Reed s devastatingly honest lyrics to full life in this exceptionally strong performance (John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter).

How do you adapt a record once described as "the most depressing album of all time" into a multi-media stage performance? Rather well, when it comes to Lou Reed’s Berlin. The former Velvet Underground mainstay was already established as a solo artist, buoyed by the hit "Walk on the Wild Side," when he released the Berlin recording in 1973. That it was not a commercial success, to say the least, is unsurprising, given its relentlessly grim lyric content and music that, while often very appealing, is hardly the stuff that Top Ten dreams are made of. Still, it made sense when Reed revived the work some 35 years later for a single world tour and concert DVD. Working with film director Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), Reed brings a quiet power to his weary tale of hopeless junkies Caroline and Jim, whose lives, already bound for the gutter when the performance begins, completely bottom out little over an hour later (the 81-minute DVD includes a few encores, notably the Velvet Underground classic "Sweet Jane"). The songs, played by a standard rock band but with subtle touches of horns, strings, and choir (Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons adds vocals as well), are for the most part strikingly prosaic; Reed has never been much of a singer, and his words are anything but flowery, closer to prose than verse (many lines, like "All of her friends call her Alaska when she takes speed," are more spoken than sung). Schnabel does a superb job matching the downbeat mood, relying primarily on the use of low, filtered lighting and film (in which Caroline is portrayed by Emmanuelle Seigner). Not for everyone, certainly, but Berlin is a work to be admired. --Sam Graham

Special Features

  • An excerpt from Spectacle: Elvis Costello with Lou Reed & Julian Schnabel
  • Berlin on tour
  • Theatrical trailer

Product Details

  • Actors: Lou Reed
  • Directors: Julian Schnabel
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: Spanish, English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • Studio: Miriam Collection
  • DVD Release Date: September 30, 2008
  • Run Time: 81 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Domestic Shipping: Currently, item can be shipped only within the U.S. and to APO/FPO addresses. For APO/FPO shipments, please check with the manufacturer regarding warranty and support issues.
  • International Shipping: This item can be shipped to over 75 destinations outside of the U.S. Learn More
  • ASIN: B001AR0D4U
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,110 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Lou Reed Berlin" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By W.T.Hoffman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 19, 2008
Format: DVD
After Lou's career was saved by Bowie IN 1972 with Lou's LP "Transformer", Lou went against expectation, creating his version of conceptual ARTROCK. BERLIN discribes the lives of two lovers, Jim and Caroline, her a singer, speed addict and mother, he a "waterboy". Berlin's reception in 1973 was cool, tho since that time, it has been critically reevaluated, and is now seen as his best, or second best solo LP. I love the heavy orchestration that has seldom been used before or since with Lou's work, and love the intensity of the relationship's tragedy at Berlin's core. Andy Warhol also loved the LP, and when it came out, he tried to get ahold of Lou, in order to mount a "cabaret" version of the LP. Sadly, Andy never connected with Lou, until Lou had morphed into his "ROCK AND ROLL ANIMAL" phase, shooting heroin, bleaching hair, etc. It took Lou only 35 years, to mount his cabaret version of BERLIN, but it was worth the wait. Lou's recent work has been sort of hit and miss, and I didnt expect this DVD to sound like the original album. Nevertheless, ALL the orchestration is intact from the album, and played note for note. Not only that, BERLIN adapts perfectly to the visual medium. Behind Lou, is a projection machine shows us, like the photographs in the BERLIN LP, a cinematic view of the lyrical storyline. Everything combines to bring forth an amazing show, that had me singing along for most of the album. Highlights, like "Caroline Says I", "Men of Good Fortune" and "Oh Jim" brought me goosebumps. When Jim beats Caroline up for shooting speed, and cheating on him, the guitar solo perfectly reflects the fight that destroyed the lover's relationship for the whole album. Its the dramatic summit of the piece.Read more ›
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Saw the DVD last night. Very short review: 5 stars out of 5. I can't think of ANY other rocker in their mid 60's interpreting their early material from 1973 with this sort of INTEGRITY, power, musicianship, musicality & emotion.

This is MILES beyond anything the Stones, Who, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Deep Purple, Aerosmith, etc have done in the last 20 years.

The only artists I know who come CLOSE to making their early 70's material relevant like this in new performance are Bruce Cockburn & Bowie's 90's work with Reeves Gabrels, neither of whom pulled it off like Reed does here.

Doesn't hurt to have a CRACK band anchored by Steve Hunter & Rob Wasserman (the entire band is tremendous).

What both makes it so special & oddly also at the same time might be my only criticism is this is NOT a greatest hits show. The only song on Berlin that qualifies for ME as a "greatest hit" is Lady Day (though the feel of the song has nothing in common with Billie Holiday stylistically, this song catches her essence better then any book I've ever read!). Berlin has several other strong songs (Sad Songs, Caroline Says, Men Of Good Fortune; there are NO bad songs on it), but again; it's not a hits show. We do get Sweet Jane as an Encore.

There's just something about seeing Reed feel these songs about being a 31 year old love lorn junkie as much at 64 as he did at 31 that melts me.

Highly recommended.
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Format: DVD
The 1973 album, Berlin, is a dark operatic song-cycle about speed junkies Caroline and Jim. Both of them work the streets but when it is determined that Caroline is an unfit mother and her kids are taken away by social services the story gets even darker and Caroline and Jim's lives take separate but equally horrific turns for the worse. Taken individually songs like "Men of Good Fortune" and "How do you think it Feels" are very good but not quite equal to Lou's greatest. But together these songs build upon each other and combine to create one of the most viscerally wrenching experiences in modern music. Admittedly, much of this sounds like it was written on cocktail napkins during a very dark, albeit painfully lucid, night of the soul. But the result is the most sublime music of Lou's career.

Though Lou always tells his stories through his character's eyes, this feels like confessional music written by an artist who is intimately acquainted with what life feels like in the dark aftermath of vanished love and vanished hope with nothing but the alchemy of his fevered brain to work with. And he produces not just a series of darkly beautiful and hauntingly introspective songs but a magnificently structured rock libretto replete with crashing rock chords, quiet cello and flute interludes, and a soul-replenishing choir. Its as if the artist had confronted oblivion itself, wrestled with it, and come up from the lower depths (or the Hell's Kitchen of the soul) with this magisterial orchestration with which to enchant himself back into life. And then he caps it all off with the most achingly beautiful rendition of "Candy Says" (sharing vocals with the fragile and tender voiced Antony) that I've ever heard.
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Format: DVD
"Berlin" is one of the most depressing albums of all time, along with Neil Young's "Tonight's The Night" and "Faith" by The Cure. Seeing and hearing "Berlin" performed live makes the album even better. And, Antony singing "Candy Says" with Lou for the encore is priceless. It's no surprise that "Berlin" was panned in '73. Like modern classical music, it takes time for its genius to sink in. Lou's age and life experience also makes this a powerful performance. He was still a young man in '73. 35 years later, these songs take on a whole new level of pathos, terror and brilliance.
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