Although what you are about to see is a work of fiction, it should never the less be played at maximum volume. - Opening Title Card, Velvet Goldmine
All the Young Dudes - Mott the Hoople (The National Anthem of Glam Rock)
REVIEW BY BRIAN FINAMORE
[email protected] @Movie_Fin
My Review of the Film
In 1998 auteur director Todd Haynes released what I feel is the greatest film about rock or music of all time, Velvet Goldmine. The film received mixed reviews upon it's release and wasn't successful at the box office, making just $1.5m on a budget of $9m but through DVD and home video has become a cult classic. Haynes has said on the film, A film that had the hardest time, at least initially, was Velvet Goldmine, and it's the film that seems to mean the most to a lot of teenagers and young people, who are just obsessed with that movie. They're exactly who I was thinking about when I made Velvet Goldmine, but it just didn't get to them the first time around." The narrative structure of the film is modeled on that of Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, in that reporter Stuart tries to solve a mystery about Slade, traveling around to interview Slade's lovers and colleagues, whose recollections are shown in 1950s, 1960s and 1970s flashback sequences.
The film centers on Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a bisexual glam rock icon patterned after David Bowie and, to a lesser extent, Marc Bolan. Ewan McGregor co-stars in the role of Curt Wild, a genre-defying performer who doesn't back down from sex, nudity, or drugs on or off stage, and whose biographical details are based on Iggy Pop (who grew up in a trailer park) and Lou Reed (whose parents sent him to electroshock therapy to 'cure' his homosexual feelings). Also featured are Christian Bale as a young glam rock fan and reporter, Arthur Stuart; Toni Collette as Slade's wife, Mandy; Eddie Izzard as his manager, Jerry Devine; and Luke Morgan Oliver as a young Oscar Wilde.
The film is not only a bout the glam rock scene but it's about what it was like to grow up a homosexual in England throughout the 50's, 60's, and 70's. It's also strongly influenced by the ideas and life of Oscar Wilde (seen in the film as a progenitor of glam rock), and refers to events in his life and quotes his work on dozens of occasions. Wilde was of course involved in a ridiculous trial regarding his homosexuality that unfortunately ruined his life. Haynes (a homosexual himself) work has had multiple references to homosexuality (Far From Heaven) and his themes have often dealt with outcasts of society trying to deal with the world they live in (Safe, I'm Not There).
This is an extremely well made film, it's really hard to see why critics were unkind to the film upon it's release but in a retrospective review, Jeremiah Kipp of Slant Magazine (one of the best online film critic sites) offers up this analysis: Although unsupportive critics may be "terrified of a movie with so many ideas", the film successfully shows a "melancholic ode to freedom, and those who fight for it through art", because of Haynes' detailed imagery and the cast's "expressive, soulful performances". Kipp touches on something I admire about Haynes film, and that is the film really goes for it. You can tell Haynes has a passion about this subject and his enthusiasm for it can't help but scream out while on the screen.
Kipp also said that critics may have been "terrified of a movie with so many ideas", that really pisses me off and if there's one thing I will always defend about certain films it's a film with many ideas should not be criticized because of that. Sure some films are a mess because they can't focus on one theme of the story and instead try to tackle too much but in the case of Velvet Goldmine I feel that Haynes themes all work together well and are in sync with the story. It's also a film about what it was like when artists once dreamed of making a big impact beyond just making money and acquiring wealth. These artists wanted to lead a revolution and transform the way in which we lived life.
I can't say I'm a huge fan of glam rock but I must say the music in this film is simply amazing. Using a combination of real and created songs for the film the soundtrack is truly a great listen and if you take away anything from the film, the music should be a really positive aspect. The performances are all spot on and suite their roles very well. The cast is full of up and coming English acting stars like Jonathan Rhys-Myers, Ewan McGregor, Christian Bale, Toni Collette, and Eddie Izzard. The story really revolves around Christian Bale's Arthur Stuart and his sexual awakening and fond memories of a time where things seemed truly free. The present day story takes place in a gloomy Reagan era New York circa 1984. You get the idea that these ideas have been repressed by the Conservative take over of Thatcher's England and Reagan's America.
As with Citizen Kane there is a Rosebud of sorts, a MacGuffin that appears throughout the film that we find out in the end what meaning it has. I love the way in which Goldmine uses the Kane structure to tell the story. Another reason I feel critics dumped on this movie is because the film used this structure and the idea that Citizen Kane is supposedly "untouchable".
Review by Brian Finamore @Movie_Fin