"For once there was an unknown land, full of strange flowers and subtle perfumes, a land of which it is joy of all joys to dream, a land where all things are perfect and poisonous."
"Style always wins out in the end..."
Velvet Goldmine is a movie about glam rock. It's also about love, ambition and public bisexuality. It's a glittering homage to the early 70s rock n' roll pioneers like David Bowie, Roxy Music, Iggy and the Stooges, Lou Reed, T. Rex and many others. They made rock brighter, campier and much more interesting. And Todd Haynes' (VG's writter and director) made it all more beautiful and fun.
The film was released in the US in 1998, after the whole production had to struggle to finish it with the limited resources common to independent movies. The film also had a tight deadline, as Ewan McGregor had to leave for the shooting of Star Wars Episode I - The Phantom Menace. Nevertheless, Velvet Goldmine quickly achieved 'cult' status and was nominated for major film awards, like the the Oscars, Cannes Film Festival and BAFTA Awards.
as Brian Slade
as Curt Wild
as Mandy Slade
as Arthur Stuart
as Jerry Devine
as Jack Fairy
as Malcolm (Flaming Creatures)
as Ray (Flaming Creatures)
as Billy (Flaming Creatures)
as Trevor (The Venus in Furs)
as Polly Small (Polly Small's Band)
Velvet Goldmine tells the story of popstar Brian Slade, using an Orson Wells-like narrative while journalist Arthur Stuart tries to find out what happened to Slade after he staged his own death in the 70s. Stuart goes on a journey, interviewing Slade's ex-wife Mandy, his ex-manager Cecil and researching Slade's love affair with american rockstar Curt Wild. In the middle of it, Todd Haynes put a lot of Oscar Wilde influence, quoting his famous lines and introducing the symbolic and mysterious green jewel that passes from one character to another, as some sort of personal charm.
The director was not afraid of showing homosexuality and bisexuality in full view, also getting a little help from McGregor's love of flashing his audience (for which we are all very thankful indeed). There are girl-boy scenes, girl-girl scenes and boy-boy scenes, usually with the same people involved. There's even an orgy. But it's all part of the story and not gratuitous nudity. After all, we're talking about rockstars' lifestyle and entertainment in the 70s. It was the pre-Aids era, pos-flower power revolution, there had to be a lot of sex going on.
But Velvet Goldmine is not only about the stars, it has the fan element with which we can all identify. Arthur Stuart is not only an 80s journalist, he was also a 70s glam rock fan. And his investigation on Brian Slade ends up bringing up a lot about himself, adding a closer-to-home feel to the movie. It's touching, emotional and very, very beautiful. I highly recommend it to everyone, but be warned to have an open mind while watching it, if you have problems with gay sex/kisses.
The film's name was taken from a David Bowie B-side song recorded for The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, but released only on the re-issue of the Space Oddity single. Originally, Todd Haynes intended to use Bowie songs for the soundtrack, but he did not receive permission from the artist. It seems Bowie has plans of filming the Ziggy period and is saving his songs for this project. According to Todd Haynes, this drawback ended up adding to the movie, as Brian Slade is already based on Bowie and the lack of his material allowed the character to sing other people's songs and thus be a little less associated with the chamaleon rocker. Brian Slade sings Roxy Music and original songs on the soundtrack, some with Jonathan Rhys-Meyers' voice, others with Shudder to Think and some even with Thom Yorke's lovely velvety voice (and the all-star fictional band The Venus in Furs).
- Needle in the Camel's Eye by Brian Eno
- Hot One by Shudder to Think
- 20th Century Boy by Placebo
- 2HB by The Venus in Furs (with Thom Yorke)
- T.V. Eye by The Wylde Ratttz (with Ewan McGregor)
- The Ballad of Maxwell Demon by The Venus in Furs
- The Whole Shebang by Grant Lee Buffalo
- Ladytron by The Venus in Furs (with Thom Yorke)
- We are the Boyz by Pulp
- Virginia Plain by Roxy Music
- Personality Crisis by Teenage Fanclub and Donna Matthews
- Satelite of Love by Lou Reed
- Diamond Meadows by T.Rex
- Bitter's End by Paul Kimble and Andy Mackay
- Baby's on Fire by The Venus in Furs (with Jonathan Rhys-Meyers)
- Bitter-Sweet by The Venus in Furs (with Thom Yorke)
- Tumbling Down by The Venus in Furs (with Jonathan Rhys-Meyers)
- Make me Smile (Come up and see me) by Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel
Velvet Goldmine was produced with the help of REM's Michael Stipe