When Lou Reed passed away Sunday at the age of 71 it left a gaping hole in the hearts of musicians, fans, and those who knew him personally throughout the world. We felt not only the loss of his life, but also the loss of hope in having any new art from him. But today, we’re gifted with one of the last works of art Lou Reed created in his final years. In 2010, Lou Reed quietly directed a short documentary called Red Shirley about the life of his then 99-year-old cousin Shirley Novick who endured WWI-torn Poland and escaped alone to North America before WWII. That film is now available to stream in its entirety via SnagFilms.
In the film, Lou Reed interviews his cousin on the eve of her 100th birthday in what he calls a tête-à-tête, but it’s more like a testimonial of the events in Poland leading up to the Holocaust as well as her new life abroad. She speaks candidly about life in Poland during WWI including a horrific experience in which the German military bombed her home and she saw the partially exploded bomb land in the middle of her table while standing next to her mother. But she also reflects on her new lives in Montreal and New York City where she fell in love with fashion and learned how to be a seamstress. One of the more moving moments of the film, comes as Novick describes the joy in seeing a dress she had sewn by hand worn on Liza Minnelli on TV.
But it’s more than just a portrait of a woman’s life; it’s also snapshots of history captioned by her life. Toward the film’s end, she discusses her role as an activist in both the union wars that plagued the NYC garment industry as well as the March on Washington.
Watch the 28-minute film above.