See This: Velvet Goldmine

Jonathan Rhys Meyers in Velvet Goldmine
Jonathan Rhys Meyers in Velvet Goldmine

 

 

 

 

In 1988 Todd Haynes made Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story. In it he used Barbie and Ken dolls instead of actors to play out the tragic story of the singer with the golden voice whose anorexia eventually killed her off. Karen’s brother Richard Carpenter stamped it out of the record books, claiming Haynes didn’t have clearance to use the music. It has since resurfaced as an entry on imdb and pops up on youtube in various shitty resolutions.

Haynes is in pop-music territory again with Velvet Goldmine, moving Ewan McGregor and Jonathan Rhys Meyers into 20th-century-boy poses in a story about a newspaper reporter (Christian Bale) in 1984 doing a story on the high point of glam rock more than ten years before. In particular he’s on the hunt, Citizen Kane-style, for its prettiest star, Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). As he digs, Bowie, Bolan, Bryan Ferry, Steve Harley, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed are all excavated from the mound of dicarded tinsel, though Haynes has learnt his lesson and no one is too identifiable – even though the film itself is named after a Bowie song recorded for the Ziggy Stardust sessions and left out of the finished album. It can’t be denied, the film does have its share of naffery, but then so did the 70s. It’s the good bits that make it worthwhile. They succeed in transporting the viewer to the “gorgeous, gorgeous time when we were all living our dreams” as one character puts it. The soundtrack is transportational too, reminding us of the project of so many 1970s glam acts to sound like camp extra-terrestrials – Ferry, Bowie, Eno, they were all at it. The film wasn’t exactly a smash hit on the big screen, probably because the death of dreams doesn’t make most people want to wet themselves with glee. It’s a film that tries hard, perhaps too hard. But at least it dares to try.

 

© Steve Morrissey 2013

 

 

 

Velvet Goldmine – Buy the book (no film available) it at Amazon 

 

 

 

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  • Velvet Goldmine (1998) Drama, Music | 1h 58min | 23 October 1998 (UK) 7.0
    Director: Todd HaynesWriters: James Lyons, Todd HaynesStars: Ewan McGregor, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Christian BaleSummary: London, 1971 - Flower Power is on the wane and floundering hippie troubadour Brian Slade feels old-fashioned and out of step until he experiences the raw power of rock musician and exhibitionist Curt Wild at a live concert. Smitten and inspired, Slade rises from the ashes of fussy brocade, reincarnating as the ambiguous pop-rock God/dess of platinum dust and phoenix feathers, Maxwell Demon. His alluring androgynous imagery and the seductive sounds his 'glitter rock' seduce teenagers across the world, offering refuge for the weird and unwanted with the promise of an everything-goes hedonism. At the height of his fame and cultural influence, he plots his sensational demise to escape, alienating his fans and falling into obscurity. On the 10th anniversary of the character assassination, journalist Arthur Stuart investigates Slade's disappearance, forcing him to revisit his own confusing teenage identity crisis and rebirth mirroring that of his idol Brian Slade. Written by Mae Moreno

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