Velvet Goldmine Film Review
Director: Todd Haynes.
Cast: Jonathan Reece Meyers, Ewan McGregor, Christian Bale and Toni Collette.
Here is Yellow Magpie’s Velvet Goldmine film review.
Velvet Goldmine is an odd mix of fantasy and surrealism. Semi-biographical, it charts what is ostensibly a fictionalised version of David Bowie as he becomes a key figure in the mod and glam rock movements.
Journalist Arthur Stuart happens to have been present in one of the key periods of the English music scene, the birth of the gender-bending Glam Rock era. A decade later, and now a reporter for an American newspaper, he is tasked by his editor to do a follow-up story on one of the most famous and outrageous figures of the glam rock era, Brian Slade.
After a disastrous publicity stunt Slade has mysteriously disappeared from the public eye and no one seems to know where he is currently. Stuart sets about his enquiry as he discovers myths and truths surrounding the great singer.
As Stuart learns more he uncovers Slade’s peculiar relationship with his wife, Mandy, and fellow singer, Curt Wild. As he delves deeper he finds out that there is more than one mystery to be solved.
‘The only times we glimpse at something resembling a real person are during small vignettes’
Velvet Goldmine’s fantasy elements are at times perplexing. There is little doubt that they initially command our attention as the film sucks the viewer in from the start. Nevertheless, as the movie progresses these elements become somewhat overused. Consequently, what should be eye-catching and imaginative scenes become they nearly the de facto norm as the film progresses.
Jonathan Reece Meyers delivers a fine performance as Brian Slade. Slade is almost exclusively in character throughout the entire film. The only times we glimpse at something resembling a real person are during small vignettes such as when he is unable to command the attention of the audience early in his career.
Slade’s alter ego, Maxwell Demon, is no doubt closely based on David Bowie’s character Ziggy Stardust. The character acts as a permissive agent allowing Slade to be as ostentatious and outrageous as he desires while also giving him the comfort and protection of using a persona.
‘McGregor’s Wild is an intoxicating personality’
One of the most fascinating people in the film is Curt Wild. Supposedly a composite of Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, Wild is an extreme, volatile character. Ewan McGregor delivers a standout performance as the slightly unhinged hedonistic character, Wild.
Dripping with raw, masculine sexuality and an unrestrained need to be the centre of attention, McGregor’s Wild is an intoxicating personality that holds a powerful sway over Slade.
Toni Collette is excellent as Mandy, the estranged wife of Slade. Despite being jaded and suffering from ennui she is able to comprehend both Slade and Wild, perhaps even better than they understand themselves.
Eddie Izzard also delivers a strong performance as the charismatic band manager, Jerry Devine. Devine is a shrewd operator who is well-adept at not just saying the right things but making the right decisions. He helps to mould Slade into a highly marketable product.
Homophobia plays a large part in the film from the reaction of people on the street to ill-suited parents condemning their children for supposedly unnatural acts. Nevertheless, despite being almost constantly in the background it is never explicitly dealt with or explored in any detail. It is left up to the viewer to decide how to feel about this subject.
Velvet Goldmine is a film that instantly grabs your attention. Nonetheless, once it has you sucked into its strange world it fails to keep you engaged. Ultimately, it is an uneven film. It has a great beginning and a decent ending. However, it is the middle section that lets it down.
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