Lou Reed’s Film Debut

     |    Wednesday, der 31. March 2010

Lou Reed, the embodiment of New York rock, will be coming to present his first film – Red Shirley – at its world premiere at Visions du Réel in Nyon.


When Lou Reed, the singer of the unforgettable group “Velvet Underground” and author of the sublime albums Berlin and Transformer, stood behind a camera for the first time at the age of 68, one might have thought he would seek to probe the world of music. Not at all, as it happens! His first documentary film will focus on something else: the face and the narrative of his cousin, on the eve of her 100th birthday.

Sitting next to her – sometimes even kneeling –, whispering his questions close to her tired ear, Lou Reed, assisted by Ralph Gibson, records the story of an incredible destiny. Often showing amazement, like a child, at the events Shirley has lived through, laughing at her quirky, frank or irritated replies, frequently asking her to repeat just to make sure, he films an affectionate and moving portrait, interspersed with some photographs.

While Shirley’s narrative first touches on the ordeal of two world wars and the disappearance of her family – “whom Hitler took care of” -, it takes an unexpected turn. We learn that she left Poland on her own in 1938 at the age of 19 years, with only two suitcases and a few dollars in her pocket to travel to Montreal – where in six months she was to learn not French but the mandolin! – before finally slipping off illegally to New York, buried under the goods on a truck. There she was to become a dressmaker and to lead the workers’ demands – hence her nickname Red Shirley, which gave the film its title. An extraordinary figure of women’s emancipation, captured in all her authenticity!

A magnificent evening in prospect, which will take place on Tuesday, April 20 at 08.30 p.m. at the Théâtre de Marens as part of the Tendances selection.