Julian Schnabel

The artist and film-maker Julian Schnabel was born on October 26th, 1951. I have a personal connection to Schnabel’s work: I proposed to my wife in the Art Gallery of Ontario, in the large Schnabel exhibition that they held last year. He is a great artist that both of us admire, and he also has a distinct musical connection. Aside from his work as a painter, he’s also an accomplished film director. He helped bring Lou Reed’s epic ‘Berlin’ to the screen in 2008 with ‘Berlin: Live at St. Ann’s Warehouse’. The original album was a commercial disaster when it was first released in 1973, coming right on the heels of ‘Transformer’ (which was his most hit-laden album). Reed had never performed the album live, until Schnabel talked him into doing a film version.

Schnabel and his daughter shot original film for ‘Berlin: Live at St. Ann’s Warehouse’, which was projected onto a screen behind the band to illustrate the songs. It’s a creative twist, and this simple concept pushes this film from being a simple concert movie into something resembling a classic stage tragedy, complete with Lou as narrator and the band as the chorus. It took a true artist like Schnabel to visually document this amazing set of songs, and his gritty visuals compliment Reed’s lyrics and music perfectly.

Check out Julian Schnabel’s film, even if you’ve seen it before. I think the performances are, at times, actually better than the original album. For this performance, the “background” singers are actually Sharon Jones and Antony Hegarty- talk about bringing in the pros!

Happy Birthday Mr. Schnabel!

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