Velvet Goldmine
Drama, Music
IMDB rating:
Todd Haynes
Christian Bale as Arthur Stuart
Mairead McKinley as Wilde Housemaid (as Maraid McKinley)
Micko Westmoreland as Jack Fairy
Damian Suchet as BBC Reporter
Luke Morgan Oliver as Oscar Wilde, 8
Wash Westmoreland as Young Man
Janet McTeer as Female Narrator (voice)
Osheen Jones as Jack Fairy, 7
Emily Woof as Shannon
Eddie Izzard as Jerry Devine
Michael Feast as Cecil
Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Brian Slade
Ewan McGregor as Curt Wild
Toni Collette as Mandy Slade
Storyline: 1971: Glamrock explodes all over the world and challenges the seriousness within the flower power generation by means of glitter and brutal music. Brian Slade, a young rock star, inspires numerous teenage boys and girls to paint their nails and explore their own sexuality. In the end Slade destroys himself. Unable to escape the role he created for himself, he plots his own murder. When his fans discover that the murder is not real, his star falls and he is forgotten about. 1984: Arthur, a journalist working for a New York newspaper, gets assigned the story about the fake murder of Brian Slade. When Arthur was young and growing up in Manchester, he was more than a fan of Slade. Reluctantly he accepts the assignment and starts to investigate what happened to his old glamrock hero.
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Tried so hard, and did so little...
This movie is just a mess. The plot and overall point of the entire film is just all over place. That being said, I thought the actors tried their best, the main problem there being Ewan MacGregor's attempt at an American accent being completely unconvincing. Some people have faulted Toni Collette's performance for the same thing, but if she's basing her character on Angie Bowie or Jerry Hall, both Americans who were well known for putting on an English affectation, then she was right on the money. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and Christian Bale were both great in their roles, despite the lackluster writing, but as long as the movie is (just under 2 hours), I still feel like Brian Slade's character arc was a tad unresolved.

I liked the re-appropriation of Brian Eno, Iggy Pop, T-Rex, New York Dolls & Roxy Music songs in the film. However, the original songs aren't great, probably because any observant David Bowie fan could tell that they really wanted to use his songs for those particular scenes, and the story goes that Bowie outright rejected the use of his songs for the movie, because he didn't like the script. Frankly, I don't blame him. The writing and the direction are the movie's biggest faults. The costuming and look of the film were a mixed bag, some parts great, some not. Overall, I was unconvinced that I was watching anything that remotely resembled anything that could have come out in the 70's, mostly when it came to the live performances or the "promo video" sections.

From what I've read, it's a pretty polarizing movie, but I think I'm in the vast minority, because I really didn't love it or hate it. The flaws of the film keep it from being great, and the things the movie gets right keep it from being horrible. Overall, it was just eh. I do think there could be a better movie made at some point about the glam rock era, but this isn't it.
Glittery, sexy, and great music to boot
From the time Jack Fairy looks at himself in the mirror till Arthur and Curt romp on a rooftop, this film glittered. Literally. I saw some of the techniques used here and decided to steal them for music videos and films in the future. The feathers floating all over the Lyceum audience...a bisexual lizardman...who came up with this stuff? The Glam-rock soundtrack was excellent (it'll be living on my turntable for a month or two). I couldn't believe that Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and Ewan MacGregor did all their own singing--that's just incredible. And someone please cast Ewan as Kurt Cobain--it's too perfect a match to miss. As a huge Bowie fan, I would point out little things that made this film a work of fiction rather than a bio-pic. But they were so gauzily veiled that it was easily to tell what REALLY happened. I liked the small character of Jack Fairy best of all--it takes a drag queen to make a special picture, doesn't it?
Style in search of substance.
The movie is absorbing, for all its images and tableaux, but in the end it wants for a plot.

What's more, I could discern no clear meaning from what little story there was. It was more like an extended music video than anything else, yet it was less sensible than most music videos.

The movie does have something to say about the righteousness of rebelling against a sexually fascist society (read: homophobia). And it is largely pleasantly engrossing and deeply moody, at times almost hypnotic--again, like a music video. I am put in the mind of the "Don't just sing it--be it" sequence at the end of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

However, I can't recommend the film very highly, because it was neither documentary, nor true-story, nor (real) music-concert, forms which could conceivably have excused the lack of a coherent story.

yummy, yummy, yummy, I've got love in my tummy
Some of you seem to have missed the point. The movie is hysterical; I haven't laughed that hard since I saw "Happiness" a few weeks ago. If you are a self proclaimed glam-geek, then you'll probably not be able to let go and really enjoy the movies multiple strengths, but for the rest of us it was an all out nostalgic love fest. And the Citizen Kane angle is so enjoyable. I rated this movie very highly, mostly because there is a genuine aesthetic at work, an aesthetic Todd does not compromise at any point. High praise indeed. Besides, how often do you get to see smart, loving tributes to sexual excess?
Hard to come up with a one-line summary for this one. This is, of course, a fictionalized account of the Glam Rock era, with Bowie and Iggy clones. The story plays out like a Glam version of Citizen Kane, and achieves what it sets out to do. The acting is good all the way around, and the direction and cinematography are appropriate and stunning. But enough of that.

What's really remarkable here is the music, particularly Ewan's cover of the Gimme Danger by Iggy & the Stooges and Jonathan's cover of Eno's glam classic, Baby's On Fire. What's so remarkable about the performances in the film is that, not only were the actors REALLY singing these songs, but they were singing them live on the set...which NEVER happens in film. Even if the actors' voices are being used, they are recorded in advance and lip-synched later for use in the film. In Goldmine, however, Ewan and Jonathan's singing were recorded live as they were performing. This gives the songs that feeling of live performance which simply CANNOT be faked. And it really works within the film. This was a daring leap, and one which had to be made in order to make this film what it is.

As a huge fan of both Bowie and Iggy, I did have some small problems with the film...particularly the fact that Ewan looks (and at times, behaves) more like Kurt Cobain than Iggy Pop. But being that this film is fictionalized and lays no claim to being otherwise, that's really neither here nor there. This is NOT the story of Iggy Pop and David's a carbon copy from an alternate reality. And as such, it works brilliantly.

Oh, and did I's a pretty good movie, as well.
I ignored this movie upon its release due, solely, to Roger Ebert's assertion that David Bowie deserves better. I regret my decision to avoid Velvet Goldmine for so long because, frankly, David Bowie doesn't deserve to have a movie made about him. Do not misunderstand: I love the Thin White Duke, Ziggy, and A Lad Insane, but, frankly, his life is probably not interesting enough to recreate on screen. HOWEVER, a fictionalized version of that life, amalgamated with the lives of similar rock stars and taken to the most imaginative limits, is worth it. It's totally enthralling and utterly breathtaking, and, from one point of view, wholly faithful, if not deferential, to Mr. Bowie. Plus, by eschewing reality to a certain extent, Todd Haynes can make the movie he wants rather than bend his ideals to a real life.

So, basically, I avoided one of the most brilliant movies of the last 15 years based on a single point of view. As much as I value Mr. Ebert's opinion, he was sorely mistaken when it comes to Velvet Goldmine. His gravest error? That would be thinking this movie is supposed to be about David Bowie. Yes, to a certain extent it is. Brian Slade is, very much, an emulation of that man. Maxwell Demon is analogous to Ziggy Stardust; his bouts with cocaine addiction are comparable to Bowie's mid- to late 1970s travails as well. Curt Wild can stand in for Iggy Pop, whom David Bowie helped during his glammy hey-day (he produced, horribly, the Stooges final studio record, Raw Power). BUT not everything adds up, nor is it supposed to. Brian Slade is a melange of everyone from David Bowie to Marc Bolan to Brian Eno to Brian Ferry to David Johanson to... Curt Wild calls to mind Iggy Pop, clearly, but he's more sensitive and with stringy blond hair that clearly recalls Curt Cobain. Jack Fairy could be Brian Ferry or Marc Bolan or Andy Warhol. The fact is that everyone is everyone, on some level. They're all mixed up and they're supposed to be.

The movie isn't about people, but rather about a movement, which these people happen to demonstrate. The movie is about the abandonment of the pansexuality embraced by glitter. Those who rode the glam wave--who supported being gay or bisexual--made an about face. Brian Slade, in the film, becomes the straight man, pun intended--the lackey of a fascist government in an alternate 1984. Isn't that, sort of, what glam did? Didn't the ambiguous Bowie become the Iman's husband and bury his make-up and dress wearing ways in favor of making in extremely lucrative, but artistically vapid, records? Didn't Marc Bolan sputter out in a ball of cocaine? Didn't David Johanson, the gorgeous man/woman on the cover of the NY Dolls first record become Buster Poindexter? Didn't Brian Ferry choose to become a lounge singer? Didn't Brian Eno choose to... Well, no Brian Eno didn't change so much as remain weird in a different way. In any event, like Curt Wild says in the film, not everyone who says they're bisexual is; they're just doing it because they think it's cool. Velvet Goldmine is Todd Haynes's slap in the face of those artists who abandoned a truly challenging path for something a little less curvy.

Of course, it's not just the weighted ideology of the film that's brilliant. It's also the colors and the acting and the atmosphere. This movie is candy colored and wonderful to look at. It feels like Alladin Sane or The Slider sounds. It's like ingesting the warm jets. It's glam. And the acting's top-notch too. This is, quite simply, a splendid motion picture with quite a bit to say about artistic backtracking. It's just great.
Excellent, Exciting, Erotic
The review that's up on the index page was written by someone who didn't understand the movie, who doesn't understand playing music, and who doesn't understand the seventies. I am an ex-musician of the period of this film, and I am still excited from seeing it for the first time tonight (yes, it IS seven years later). Everyone nailed their parts, especially the major male leads, and the music was perfect. I found this film to be authentic and extremely good. I recommend it highly. Those familiar with the music of Lou Reed and Iggy Pop will recognize the ambiance of the tunes, and one is also reminded of David Bowie. The glimpses we are given of the business of the music business are very clever and well-done. For bisexual males and ex-glam musicians, this film is (as they say) riveting, electrifying!
goldmine getting a bad rap
While some parts of this movie are too gay and corny, and trust me I am by no means homophobic, Haynes does paint a beautiful picture. And that is what this film is, a piece of art, combining interesting filming techniques and music. And, that is why this movie is getting such good reviews. I admit that I lost interest at some points, but overall couldn't wait to see what happened next. It is in one word, amazing.
All mysteries are just more needles in the camel's eye
This film is definitely one of my favorites among the ones who pay some kind of homage to rock'n'roll history. That opening scene with Jack Fairy's childhood and then the credits rolling to the sound of Needle In the Camel's Eye is one of the best and most exciting things I've ever seen. I guess I could say I love everything about it, how can you not love a cast like that? They're all wonderful and so believable in their performances, especially Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Ewan McGregor, who had very physical roles, but pulled it off just fine – I thought McGregor was especially brilliant in this, performing the songs live and jumping and throwing himself around, a certain Mr. Osterberg would be proud.

The story is an obvious portrait of David Bowie's relationship to Iggy Pop and Lou Reed in the 70's (adding a little mixture of Kurt Cobain, why not?), a decade I imagine was unique to rock'n'roll, filled with exciting new music, rebellion and social changes, but it's also a story about discoveries and growing up, represented by Christian Bale's character ("That's me, dad, that's me!"). It's not an unknown feeling to us all, coming across a circumstance where we have to revisit years past, and the memories of what we once were may sound strange. Along with the glitter and the glam rock comes the melancholia of being a part of a movement that is already in decadence, because all great things must burn fast and come to an end. Besides, what other movie presents us with a more delightful sight than that of Ewan McGregor and Christian Bale loving each other beneath a glitter rain brought on by a UFO? Words are unnecessary after that.
It's a MOVIE, see?
I read the previous comment (Bowie Should Sue), and I just had to say:

It's a movie. They are often fictional.

And a great movie, too. If you try to map the characters onto their real life inspirations, you'll only confuse yourself. A lot of the events in the movie really happened, but not to the same figures. None of that matters. Take it for what it is: an elegy on a brief flash of freedom. It touches on the importance of decadence and the inevitable pain it causes. It gives some historical significance to a frivolous movement. It combines two of the great loves of my life (Citizen Kane and Brian Eno) and doesn't f**k it up. It makes me wanna strut.
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