Gold comes in the form of iridescent glitter powder and drips off the screen with baroque opulence in Velvet Goldmine, Todd Haynes cinematic ode to the late seventies British glam rock scene. Released in 1998, to limited artistic acclaim, the last 14 years have seen Velvet Goldmine gain a niche following which is now nestled between rock cult classic and sexual revolution coming of age story. Although the subtext can be seen as a more serious glimpse into the sexual politics of the time, the film indulges in a campy glam which emerges as a cross between poetic and just plain fun.
Winner at Cannes (1998) and the Academy Awards (1998), for artistic contribution and costume design, Haynes succeeds at putting forth a visually intricate and detailed film through collage storytelling. Similar to his 2007 film I’m Not There, Velvet Goldmine is composed of mockumetary and noir inspired vignettes that build a burlesquian glam fantasy mirroring the true-life movements of David Bowie and Iggy Pop through characters Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and Curt Wild (Ewan McGregor). Christian Bale also makes an appearance as Arthur Stuart, a die hard fan turned journalist whose role is to guide the noir-ian component of the film in an investigation into Brain Slade’s faked death 10 years earlier. Set to a landscape of the surreal, the film which begs to be played ‘at maximum volume’ is abundant with musical and art historical references that elude to Haynes direct inspirations. If you are a fan of early sixties cinema you’ll notice the influence of Jack Smith, music aficionados will catch the Venus in Furs reference, and the ‘literati’ will understand why Oscar Wilde is the fibre that weaves the story through to its end.
Once you have abandoned the notion that Velvet Goldmine should make linear sense, engaging in its flamboyant glam nostalgia and sexual fervour is a trip worth taking. Besides, who can deny two hours of Ewan McGregor clad in sparking glitter and gold lamé?