Thursday, May 26, 2016

Velvet Goldmine (1998) #movies

In 1984, British journalist Arthur Stuart investigates the career of 1970s glam superstar Brian Slade, who was heavily influenced in his early years by hard-living and rebellious American singer Curt Wild. (IMDB)

I admit that I rewatched Velvet Goldmine in the wake of David Bowie's passing. It was purely out of nostalgia. This was also one of the few films I saw on the big screen way back when it first came out, possibly with an ex of mine during a time when we ourselves thought we were terribly glam wearing makeup and being all gothic and beauteous.

So, yeah, there's a big pile of nostalgia attached to this.

I wasn't a Bowie fan back then, however now I realise what an impact his music and style had on the goth scene – and how most of the bands that I look up to now were heavily influenced by the man. Glam rock was never quite my thing but I've gained an appreciation for it in my dotage.

I'll also admit that my interest in this film is very much for the visual elements (beyond perving at Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Ewan McGregor. Gosh darnit, I admit it. This film is all about perving at those two. I am a shallow, vapid creature who doesn't much care for Christian Bale.

There's really not much of a story, if you aren't dazzled by fangrrrling. Singer Brian Slade has an affair with guitarist Curt Wild. Everything goes south in a narcotic haze and then Slade fakes his own death at the height of his fame – and everyone's pissed off at him and his career nose-dives. Then there's some sort of hush-hush cover-up with intimations about a man who fell to earth a-la Bowie while the dull-as-dead-woodlice reporter tries to find out what happened to his hero way after the fact. And everyone damaged by Slade has his or her turn to Bare All The Uglies. There are even Men In Black. We never find out why there are Men In Black. And I'm fine with that. Really I am. Save that I don't think these magical elements were played up enough.

(There're also those who say that the film hints at Bowie's connection with Iggy Pop – I'd rather say they're inspired by the two. And the next person who sagely advises me of this fact can go blow themselves – I've heard that tired pony trotted out by folks so often I'm like meh. Tell me something new.)

Granted, there are magical interludes in the film – music videos within the narrative – that most certainly add a glamorous touch (and for those alone make this film worth watching). Yet at the end, once the glitter and grease paint has smudged off, and the sun has robbed night of her splendour, we're left with the ugliness of the people in the story. And perhaps that is the story – that we paint our faces to be what we're not and in that way become trapped. We create an ideal we can never live up to. The fairytale prince is ephemeral. He is not who you want him to be. And he's bound to disappoint you.

In the end, he is just as sad as running mascara after you've spent the last half of the night talking to God on the Big White Telephone.

Okay, I'm getting all heavy-handed with my clich├ęs etc. This is a pretty film. I'll take it out, dust it off, and watch it once in a while just to feel that sick pulse of enjoying pretty boys wearing make-up shagging and prancing around in too-tight pants. Because it makes me happy-sad, and reminds me of my own stupid young adult years when I wanted something I could never have. That wasn't even real.

I'll leave you with that. You probably won't enjoy the film for the same reasons I do, nor feel disappointed with it for the same reasons I do. Maybe it's also because the film reminds me of who I never got to be. And also that the dream invariably turns to ashes in your mouth.

PS, I'm also really not in a very intellectual mood of present, so feel free to disregard everything I've written here as the ramblings of a middle-aged maggot.

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