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Velvet Goldmine
Velvet Goldmine
Actors: Ewan McGregor, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Christian Bale, Toni Collette, Eddie Izzard
Director: Todd Haynes
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
R     1999     2hr 4min

Starring Ewan McGregor (MOULIN ROUGE, TRAINSPOTTING) and Jonathan Rhys Meyers (THE GOVERNESS, MICHAEL COLLINS) -- executive producer Michael Stipe of R.E.M. presents this electrifying journey through rock 'n' roll's most o...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Ewan McGregor, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Christian Bale, Toni Collette, Eddie Izzard
Director: Todd Haynes
Creators: Todd Haynes, Bob Weinstein, Christine Vachon, Christopher Ball, Harvey Weinstein, Michael Stipe, James Lyons
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Period Piece
Studio: Miramax
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Letterboxed - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 05/18/1999
Original Release Date: 11/06/1998
Theatrical Release Date: 11/06/1998
Release Year: 1999
Run Time: 2hr 4min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Letterboxed
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 6
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English
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Movie Reviews

Love Letter to Ziggy Stardust
E.A. Week | Boston, MA USA | 07/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"An oddball film that chronicles the rise and fall of an early 1970s glam rock star, Velvet Goldmine almost defies categorization. While separating fiction from fact can be tricky, the story is based pretty much on the life of David Bowie; some details have been tweaked for dramatic effect, but there's surprisingly little deviation from just about any biography that's ever been written about him. The non-linear narrative takes the viewer into the glittery world of one Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) and the entourage surrounding him. Slade had created an alter-ego for himself called Maxwell Demon (as Bowie created Ziggy Stardust), and the character had almost come to eclipse Slade himself. After an on-stage stunt literally backfires, Slade's fans revolted against him, and the singer vanished into drugs and obscurity.

His story is conveyed in flashbacks when, in 1984, journalist Arthur Stuart (Christian Bale) is assigned to write a tenth anniversary retrospective on Slade and perhaps uncover the singer's ultimate fate. Arthur interviews Slade's first manager, Cecil (Michael Feast) and then his bitter ex-wife, Mandy (Toni Collette), and from them pieces together Slade's early background as a musician, including the players who proved crucial to his career: maverick second manager Jerry Devine (Eddie Izzard), unstable proto-punk rocker Kurt Wild (Ewan McGregor), and deceptively shy wardrobe mistress Shannon (Emily Woof). Arthur of course is no mere bystander to all these events; the unfolding story reveals that he was a huge fan of Slade, turning to music as an escape during his troubled adolescence. In digging up Slade's past, he also unleashes a lot of his own demons, and the story is just as much Arthur's as Brian's.

Although the film stands as a loving homage to glitter, it also doesn't hesitate to reveal that the core of the phenomenon was essentially empty. Somehow, Velvet Goldmine manages to both celebrate and condemn glam rock: Slade starts his career as a naive singer-songwriter with some interesting and unusual ideas, but once Devine's corporate machine takes over, Slade's creativity is stifled to the point where he's a prisoner of his own artifice. Ultimately, the pre-fabricated exterior is all that's left of him.

Teasing out the narrative thread is no easy feat. Velvet Goldmine is liberally draped in yards of trappings: musical interludes, documentary sequences, images that often go unexplained and don't add much; there's characters, scenes, and plot threads that serve no purpose other than window dressing. Some of this proves effective (a take on early music video is a real hoot), but much of the excess could've been trimmed away in the interests of tightening the story. While Arthur's investigation into the Slade mystery is handled well, other plot elements needed more attention.

Bowiephiles will recognize every phase of their idol's early career: the dapper mod, the curly-haired hippie, the cross-dressed singer-songwriter, the flamboyant glam rocker (there's even a very fun poke at Serious Moonlight-era Bowie that cleverly ties into the main plot). The characters mirror exactly those in Bowie's orbit, but viewers who don't know the characters and don't get the jokes/ references are apt to find themselves baffled, not to mention put off by the film's excesses.

Anyone willing to sift through the spangles and feathers, however, will be rewarded with some terrific acting. Ewan McGregor is mostly wasted as the unstable Kurt Wild--he has a couple of knockout performance sequences, but Wild otherwise spends most of his scenes drugged out and exploding in angry diatribes; although McGregor gets top billing, Wild is really a supporting player. Izzard is a lot of fun as the oily Devine; Woof handles Shannon's transformation from innocent schoolgirl to shrewd operator with aplomb; Feast is terrifically droll in his work as the ignominiously discarded Cecil. Bale is utterly fearless as Arthur: he has to put across a lot of weakness and shyness and self-doubt, as well as Arthur's sexual awakening. Many actors wouldn't have touched this character with the proverbial ten-foot pole, but Bale handles the material--including one humiliating moment in Arthur's life--without the slightest hint of self-consciousness. Toni Colette is a marvel, taking her character from naive party girl to cynical rock wife to jaded, washed-up ex--she's funny and subtle and outrageous, suggesting a deep and genuine love for Brian, pain and betrayal when he essentially dumps her for Kurt, and finally weary bitterness that the world at large has forgotten her. Of all the characters, Mandy seems to have truly loved the wild circus of glam rock, and she longs for the past with a touching sense of nostalgia.

As terrific as all these performances are, the film belongs to Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, whose turn as Bowie is nothing short of riveting. A kind of raw sexual energy seems to pour out of him; he's magnetic, and much like Bowie himself, it's impossible to take your eyes off him. The physical resemblance is particularly uncanny, and Rhys-Meyers gets all the little details down perfectly: the expressions, the posture, the body language. Like Bale, he tackles the role head-on, and it's a testament to his skill that he conveys such depth of emotion through layers of costume, wig, and makeup. Even his reedy voice evokes the young Bowie, and yes, that's him singing in four different numbers (two of them were left off the movie's soundtrack CD). This role, more than any of his others, brings home the depth and extent of JRM's talent. Everyone in the film is stellar, but only Rhys-Meyers seems touched with genuine prodigy. Anyone who admires him as an actor shouldn't miss him here.

Velvet Goldmine's other great strength is its music, which consists of classic tunes from the era, as well as songs specifically written for the film. The overall effect is of a long-lost Bowie album, and it's a pity that two or three show-stoppers were left off the soundtrack. Music is of course inextricably linked to story in this type of film, used to illuminate character and propel the narrative. A couple of set pieces don't work, but mostly the music is wonderful, melding perfectly to the visual images and adding depth to each scene.

Velvet Goldmine plainly isn't a movie for everyone, and almost certainly some would find it unwatchable; mileage will vary greatly depending on one's tolerance for gay characters, men in drag, and a heightened sense of camp. There's also a *lot* of sex (gay, straight, group, and solo) and full frontal nudity (male and female)--the film is rated R for a very good reason. Velvet Goldmine can probably be summed up as a diamond in the rough--the viewer may need to do some chipping, but the glittering facets that are revealed make the effort worthwhile."
An addictive, heart-wrenching, fabulous glam fantasy.
Aliebling | Seattle | 11/06/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Many of this film's critics make the mistake of taking it too literally - though based on Bowie's life, it's not intended to be accurate or biographical. It is a glam fantasy, both beautiful and painful at the same time. The story is very complex, but every bit of it is worthwhile, so if you didn't "get it" the first time around, try watching it again! I have seen Velvet Goldmine many times, and every time there is something new that I notice, or something else to think about. Todd Haynes' script and direction and pure genius, and that's all there is to it! I can not find fault with a single of the actors - each of the stars gives a incredible performance. Toni Collette, Christian Bale, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and Ewan McGregor give depth and emotion to characters, so that even at their harshest or most brutal moments, one can't help but feel for them. Micko Westmoreland (aka The Bowling Green) is a standout as Jack Fairy, who is glamour personified. There is wonderful chemistry between the male leads, who truly bring to life the movie's gay romance. Their on-screen kiss is more passionate and beautiful than any I have ever seen on film, gay or straight.But before you start taking the movie too seriously, it's also great fun! You can analyze it, which is worthwile, or you can pop it in for a night of fluff and glamour. Everything is visually exciting... feathers, sequins, spaceships, and glitter everwhere. Not to mention the music! Perhaps the most valuable thing I gained from this movie was an introduction to a genre of music I knew nothing about. How did I survive for so long without Roxy Music? I HIGHLY recommend this movie!"Once upon a time, not so long ago, the children of the revolution looked up into the sky. And there, hovering amid a boulevard of stars, was a vision of the future as strange and dazzling as any dream. What they saw that night no one can ever say. But what they heard can still be heard today.""
The Glam Sham Revealed
G P Padillo | Portland, ME United States | 03/09/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The Glam Rock movement was as much about shocking as it was anything else. In its way it took itself more seriously than any popular art form. The artists seemed to lie to themselves and each other with a pretense that nothing mattered, when the reality was that EVERYTHING mattered too much. The affected hairstyles, glitter, platform shoes, outrageous clothing, faux-bisexuality combined belied its phony "I don't care" attitude.

Todd Hayne's captures all of this brilliantly in Velvet Goldmine. He is ably aided by a cast who give startlingly nuanced performances and though each succeeds in bringing off the poseur hard-edge to their performances each character is afforded opportunity to also reveal a fragility that is the heart of their performance. Despite all the shock and "glam" we are watching people who are no more than children, unguided trying to make their way in a world technology, morals, where civilization itself was changing faster than anyone could keep up with. The center of the movie seems to be the observation of watching innocence shattered and failed attempts to recapture it and understand the confusion surrounding it.

Haynes understands music as well - or better - than any currently working director and "Goldmine" more than any of his other films almost feels as though it is following a symphonic form, repeating its motifs and driving home its confused, distraught yet ultimately hopeful message through its innocence. Visually as well as aurally - and every other way - Haynes scrupulous attention to detail pays off with a rewarding film that won't be to all likings, but is very nearly brilliant in every way.

The plot/storyline is often blurred and difficult to follow and once you can accept that this must have been an intentional element, said difficulty almost becomes the point where the actual story isn't as strong as the observation the film seems to be making.

The trio of Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Ewan McGregor, and Toni Collete are nothing short of remarkable in capturing the jumbled, mass of confusion their characters are. Each tortured in their own way, each attempting to "live out loud" and each failing miserably. Likewise, Christian Bale is the perfect picture of confused dysfunction, searching and living in a world where the lines between dreaming and reality are further and further blurred to the point where it's impossible to tell the separation - if there is one - between the two. Amazing performances all the way around.
Thanks, Mr. Haynes!
Aliebling | 07/30/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I *really* wish this film would materialize into a human so I could have sex with it. If you haven't seen the film and are getting put off by the nasty reviews here, please, for your sake, ignore them. They didn't get it. It was meant to be a campy, fun, very indulgent piece of slash fan fiction. Nothing more. I'll be honest, it's not for everyone. If the idea of extremely sexy and gorgeous boys in makeup and tight pants making out appeals to you, especially if you're obsessed with glam rock, and an extra bonus if you're a rabid Placebo fan (the Placeboys are in it, and Brian looks tastier than I've ever seen him, which is saying something), buy this movie immidiately. You will not regret it, I swear. However, if you're homophobic, or you think this was supposed to be a bio of Magic Pants himself, or you want to watch a brilliantly written indie film like Trainspotting or something, you're going to be pissed off. I won't lie to you. This movie was made for girls who are into the whole slash fan fiction scene and gay boys only. If you're a fan of Hedwig, Labyrinth and Rocky Horror, you're going to be obsessed with this film. And the soundtrack kicks f*cking @ss, btw. Oh yeah, and Ewan McGregor's naked. Now go see it."