Velvet Goldmine (1998)

SPOILER ALERT: As these reviews are of an academic nature, they may contain spoilers. Those that do feature this warning. Future reviews will try to limit spoilers for a public audience, but until then, read at your own risk.

Velvet Goldmine

Dir. Todd Haynes, 1998

Before Todd Haynes acheived mainstream fame with his wonderfully bizarre, allegorical Bob Dylan “biopic” I’m Not There, he made Velvet Goldmine. Originally intended to be a straight-up depiction of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust period, David Bowie’s refusal to get involved due to the racy bisexual content resulted in a quick rewrite involving Oscar Wilde, magical alien brooches, a 1980s dystopia, and fictionalized versions of Bowie, Iggy Pop, Brian Eno, and others.

Christian Bale plays Arthur Stewart, a journalist and former rocker who goes on assignment to find Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), a former Glam rock superstar who disappeared completely after faking his own assassination onstage. Through interviews and flashbacks, we discover Slade’s triumphs and scandals, only to reveal that he has secretly reinvented himself as a Reaganite pop idol with a different identity.

Velvet Goldmine pays glorious homage to Citizen Kane as well as glam itself: though the musicians have been given pseudonyms, all of the songs in the film are genuine contributions from Eno, Brian Ferry, and the like. The brilliant music-video excesses of the film are matched only by the deep, dark lows the characters face, and it feels more like a dream– and a nightmare– than any music film I’ve ever seen. A-

Elton John – “Bennie and the Jets”

When: After dark, February 1998
Where: My mom’s car, exiting the 210 freeway onto North Lake Avenue.
Who: My mother
Weather: Rain

I don’t know what it is about rain that makes me remember so well. One thing about this song is that I wouldn’t have been able to hear it for the first time if it wasn’t raining. The storm systems are strange here; my mother told me that we should take advantage of the opportunity to listen to a radio station based in Ventura County– that could only be heard in Pasadena when it was raining.

Next: Weird Al Yankovic’s sole appearance in my life. And it wasn’t even very long.