Thursday, July 5, 2012

Velvet Goldmine (1998)

Directed By: Todd Haynes

Starring: Christian Bale, Ewan McGregor, Jonathan Rhys Meyers

The Main Review: Velvet Goldmine was a 1998 film set in 1984 in which a British journalist, Arthur Stuart (Christian Bale), investigates the 1974 faked murder and subsequent disappearance of glam rock idol Brian Slade/Maxwell Demon (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and tries to discover where the glitter star is. Intertwined with Blade's story, we get some of Arthur's, who was, himself, part of the glam rock movement and seemed to be at every important concert mentioned in the film. This film showcases some brilliant music and costumes, not to mention the absolutely stunning cast. And, of course, I have to point out that Brain Slade/Maxwell Demon looks so much like David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust. Along with that, Ewan McGregor plays a (mighty fine) glam rocker, Curt Wild, who seems to be a mix of Lou Reed and Iggy Pop. Placebo makes an appearance as well. Also, there's a spaceship.

Is it sad that this feels like the most straightforward film I've watched this week?

The first shot of this film is of a spaceship and then baby being found on a doorstep. The baby is Oscar Wilde. He has a mysterious green gem with him. Because that makes so much sense. A hundred years later, Jack Fairy - a soon-to-be glam rock idol but current schoolboy - finds the gem after being pushed down by some kids. Then - BAM! - change of scene. 1970s Glam Rock Time! We see Arthur and some of his glam-a-licious friends walking around and then the faked assassination of Maxwell Demon during a concert. Fast forward ten more years and we see that Arthur has now settled down to a life of journalism. He's asked to do a piece on Brian Slade's disappearance.

Arthur interviews Slade's first manager and then his ex-wife. We get bits and pieces of Slade's complex life and relationships. It's shown that Slade takes the green gem from Jack Fairy and then later gives it to Curt Wild, whom he produces for and sleeps with. Along with that, we see Arthur's past and his growing interest in glam rock. The film is very open with it's queerness, seeing as how all of its important male characters are gay or Eddie Izzard. 

Here's Where It Gets Spoilerific: We find out that Brian Slade is now Tommy Stone, new rock sensation (whose look seems rather similar to Bowie's in the '80s). Also, we find out that Arthur had sex with Curt Wild after the Death of Glitter concert. Arthur sees Wild again at the end of the film. It seems as if Wild doesn't remember him. However, Wild passes on the green gem to Arthur.

Scenes To Watch Out For: Curt Wild's first appearance. Oil, glitter, leather pants. Yes.

Baby's on Fire concert scene. Brian Slade performs a great service to Wild's guitar.

Curt Wild quoting some beautiful Oscar Wilde to Brian Slade during some odd circus ring press conference.

Arthur gettin' it on with Curt Wild. (Can you tell I'm just a tad bit into Curt Wild? Just a teensy bit.)

Anything Else: Now, I know what you're thinking: What is up with the green gem thing? What does that symbolize? I'm really not sure. I wanna just boil it down to "It's a gay thing" but I don't think it's that simple. I think, maybe, it's being open about your queer sexuality - seeing as Jack Fairy got it after being bullied and then, after finding it, seemed to have some nice optimistic moment. Slade stole it from Fairy when kissing him and then gave it to Wild after they'd had sex... I dunno. I'd love some input on this.  

David Bowie was supposed to supply the music for Velvet Goldmine but he looked at the script and decided he wanted no part of it. It's a shame, really, but I think the film did super without him. The soundtrack really is amazing.  

Cute little side story: When Ewan McGreggor and Christian Bale were filming their sex scene, Haynes cut without letting them know. He just let them continue to simulate the actions without saying anything. They must have looked like they needed a minute. (Ewan McGregor admits that he was really getting into it.)

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