Watching Resolution: Velvet Goldmine (1998)

10. Your best friend’s favorite movie: Velvet Goldmine (1998)

List Progress: 7/12

My fiancee Andrea has long told me about how Velvet Goldmine was a formative queer film in her teen years. In the same vein as Hedwig and the Angry Inch or The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Velvet Goldmine is a big, flashy, unabashedly queer and loud musical full of conflicted and imperfect characters trying to live as boldly as themselves as possible. I missed this one during my formative years, but that was rectified this past week and I have been earwormed by many of the songs all week.

The plot of Velvet Goldmine is “rockstar makes it big, gets into drugs and burns out”, with a side of “what if David Bowie and Iggy Pop had a musical and sexual love affair?”. But you don’t watch Velvet Goldmine for the plot. You watch it to see a spectacle on your screen, and I say that in the best possible way.

Velvet Goldmine follows a David Bowie/Jobriath-expy named Brian Slade (played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers) who comes up as a bisexual rocker to make a huge impact on the glam rock scene. Ten years before the present day of the film, he staged his own assassination during a concert and disappeared from the public eye, leaving behind his wife (Toni Collette) and his collaborator/lover/Iggy Pop-expy Curt Wild (Ewan McGregor). Young reporter and former glam rock fan Arthur (played by a young and vulnerable Christian Bale) is assigned to unravel the story of what happened to Slade all those years ago and where all of the major players in his life are now. Add in Eddie Izzard as Slade’s manager and a ton of musician cameos that flew over my head, and the cast for this is packed with a lot of talent and energy. Particularly sexual energy. This is a very horny film. Be prepared for a lot of full-frontal nudity and long sex scenes, though they are all shot beautifully.

Told out of chronological order and containing a lot of artistic sweeping scenes that capture the feel of music videos, the movie is clearly set up to be an experience more than a direct story. It aims to make you feel immersed in this shiny world, rather than try to tell you a full story (the actual fate of Slade is a bit underbaked). Velvet Goldmine is far from perfect, but I cannot remember feeling so immersed in a film for a long time. (It doesn’t hurt that I’ve also watched the video for the song “Ballad of Maxwell Demon” about a dozen times this week and have hummed it many more.)

I have very little context for the historical figures these characters are based on, so I don’t know how someone coming in as a glam rock aficionado would feel about it. But for a big dive into the genre, this worked very well for me. And seeing a lot of pretty men in glitter doesn’t hurt either.

Would I Recommend It: Yes.

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