'Trainspotting' turned a whole new crop of fans onto Lou Reed's music (Photo: AP Photo/Mark Goff/Miramax Films …
1. "Blue in the Face" (1995)
"Blue in the Face" was filmed over a five-day period in Brooklyn, New York as a follow-up to the more structured and scripted "Smoke," directed by Wayne Wang and written by Paul Auster. Several actors reprise their "Smoke" roles, including Harvey Keitel, Jared Harris and Giancarlo Esposito, but Lou Reed makes for a "Blue in the Face" exclusive, credited only as 'Man With Strange Glasses' as he delivers a multi-part monologue about living in NYC, the Dodgers, the horrors of Long Island, why smoking is better than downing a bottle of Scotch and, of course, his strange glasses.
2. "Brick" (2005)
Just when you think Rian Johnson's high school film noir couldn't get any cooler, the closing credits roll around and they're set to a Velvet Underground song that no one had used for anything before ever (well, we're exaggerating a bit, but you get the idea). "Sister Ray" is the 17+-minute final track of the band's 1968 album White Light/White Heat, a rambling, epic one-take wonder about drug use, violence, homosexuality and transvestism — true, a less-than-five-minute cut was used for "Brick," but the shortened length didn't diminish the effect as VU fans couldn't believe they were actually hearing "Sister Ray" in a movie.
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3. "Faraway, So Close!" (1993)
Lou Reed's singing can move angels. A longtime friend of filmmaker Wim Wenders, Lou Reed appeared as himself in "Faraway, So Close!," the sequel to the award-winning "Wings of Desire." Reed's performance of "Why Can't I Be Good" inspires much eyes-closed appreciation from the angel Cassiel (Otto Sander), appropriately observing the Berlin concert from above. Oh, these humans and their wonderful music!
4. "Killing Them Softly" (2012)
Director Andrew Dominik used the Velvet Underground song "Heroin" over a scene in which two characters do heroin. Lazy and obvious ... or complete and utter genius? Your opinion probably depends on how you feel about "Killing Them Softly" as a whole, a thriller that enraged and entranced audience members in almost equal measure with its strange, dark tale of gangster culture in a crap economy. Either way, don't give Dominik too much credit — Oliver Stone actually did the whole "Heroin" thing first over 20 years earlier in a scene from "The Doors" (1991).
5. "Lost Highway" (1997)
Grease monkey Pete Dayton (Balthazar Getty) gets one look at the blonde bombshell ladyfriend (Patricia Arquette) of gangster Mr. Eddy (Robert Loggia) and suddenly everything's in slow motion and set to Lou Reed's "That Magic Moment." It's a crucial turning point in David Lynch's twisty-turny thriller "Lost Highway," and one of the film's most hypnotic set pieces. Plus, Patricia Arquette looks great in slo-mo, no?
6. "Last Days" (2005)
Gus Van Sant's dreamy tone poem chronicles the final days of Blake (Michael Pitt), a rock musician obviously inspired by Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. Blake spends his last days floating in and around his large Seattle house, already a mumbling ghost as friends, lovers and vague acquaintances make themselves at home. Van Sant bends space and time with this sequence set to Velvet Underground's "Venus in Furs," in which we see the same period of time from different perspectives, as if to illustrate that Blake is losing track of the passing minutes ... and all there really is, in the end, is the music.
7. "Prozac Nation" (2001)
A lesser-known use of one of Lou Reed's most popular songs, "Perfect Day," is in this adaptation of Elizabeth Wurtzel's autobiography of drugs and depression. Jonathan Rhys Meyers, already something of a Lou Reed movie veteran (we'll get to that later), easily convinces Christina Ricci to do ecstasy by seductively claiming that "acid goes to your head ... X goes to your heart"; soon, the young 'uns are in a drug-induced love trance (or something) set to Lou Reed doing an on-camera variation of a song that apparently can never be used non-ironically.
8. "The Royal Tenenbaums" (2001)
While "The Royal Tenenbaums" is perhaps the Wes Anderson film with the most random and incoherent use of pop music (Margot's adultery montage set to The Ramones' "Judy Is a Punk" is particularly bewildering), there are still a handful of sequences that pack an even more emotional punch thanks to the song that inexplicably goes along with it. One of them is the sight of long-lost Mordecai the Hawk returning to his master, Richie (Luke Wilson), after a tender father-son moment with his dad Royal (Gene Hackman) ... set, for whatever reason, to Velvet Underground's "Stephanie Says." Hey, it works.
9. "Trainspotting" (1996)
Easily one of the most popular Lou Reed-related movie moments is the extended sequence in "Trainspotting" set — ironically, of course — to "Perfect Day." But it's not a perfect day — when you're a heroin addict, you don't tend to have "perfect days," even if you're in a movie with one of the perhaps Top Five Must-Have Soundtracks of the '90s.
10. "Velvet Goldmine" (1998)
Todd Haynes' hallucinatory, celebratory "Velvet Goldmine" gives homage to the glam rock scene that Lou Reed himself was a part of — and, unlike David Bowie, Reed allowed use of his recordings in the film. The professional and romantic courtship between glam musicians Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and Curt Wild (Ewan McGregor) is set to Reed's "Satellite of Love," and you can't help but wish you were singing along on that amusement park ride with them.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Lou Reed
- Wim Wenders