Schnabel works in concert with rocker

Golden Globe-winning director (for "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly") and artist Julian Schnabel was going through a rough patch emotionally back in 1973. "I had this difficulty with this girlfriend," he says, "this whole sense of loss and these problems."

Then he heard Lou Reed's album "Berlin," which revolves around a doomed couple dealing with depression and drugs.

"This record meant a lot to me," Schnabel recalls. "It said much to me. I listened to it over and over again -- his lines of self-hate like, 'I'm going to stop wasting my time, somebody else would have broken both of her arms.' ."

Schnabel has gone so far as to make drawings and paintings for Reed -- a good friend for the last 20 years -- based on "Berlin" "because "he touched something [in me]. I guess it was a sense of loss. The album is something I listened to over all of these years and it never seemed dated in any way."

Though the album was dismissed initially as one of the most depressing records ever made, respect for "Berlin" has grown enormously over the last three decades -- so much so that two years ago Susan Feldman, artistic director of St. Anne's Warehouse in Brooklyn, asked Reed to perform the music live for the first time in its entirety.

Reed turned to Schnabel to design the sets and direct a concert film.

"Lou Reed's Berlin," which was shot during three performances in December 2006, opens Friday at the Nuart Theatre in West Los Angeles.

Schnabel used five cameras to capture Reed, several backup singers, a seven-piece orchestra and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus.

And he enlisted his daughter Lola to shoot "home movies" of the album's "leading lady," Caroline ("Diving Bell" star Emmanuelle Seigner), that would be screened behind Reed.

Since making the movie, Reed has been asked to perform "Berlin" live on numerous occasions.

"I always told Lou that 'if people would become aware of ['Berlin'], you would not have the same kind of response when it first came out and people thought you were nuts,' " says Schnabel.

"I think that has come true."

-- Susan King

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