review for Lou Reed's Berlin on AllMovie

Lou Reed's Berlin (2007)
by Bruce Eder review

This reviewer never knew Lou Reed's Berlin album to have been so thoroughly maligned on its original release -- but, then again, the mid-'70s was when we stopped paying attention to most of the music press. Luckily, Reed himself, along with director Julian Schnabel and producers Bob Ezrin and Hal Willner, never took the criticisms seriously (or, in Reed's case, permanently to heart). And the result is this concert film, intended to be shown at full concert volume (some filmgoers may have to change seats to protect their hearing), filled with fluid camera work and showcasing not only Reed and his band (including original guitarist Steve Hunter) and the large coterie of support musicians, but also the extraordinary performing space at St. Ann's Warehouse (one of the great, not sufficiently heralded treasures of the New York City art and music scene). Schnabel's designs, and the photography by Ellen Kuras (Neil Young: Heart of Gold), intercut with dissolves and edits to silent footage shot by Schnabel's daughter Lola, all seem to fit the music, and the combined effect is spellbinding, even as the music surges in power (with some occasional bursts of lyricism) in this concert setting. The piece itself is still something of an acquired taste, though not nearly as much in 2008 as it was 33 years before. In point of fact, the three non-Berlin numbers -- including "Sweet Jane" -- that finish the film are still far more accessible and provoke the strongest audience reaction. But they're icing on the cake; if you're still with the movie for the end of the concept work, then you're already very likely won over.