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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 27.27%
Average: 25%
Pretty Bad: 5.68%
Total Crap: 6.82%

5 reviews, 58 user ratings

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Velvet Goldmine
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by John Linton Roberson

"NOT the Story of David Bowie: Still Interesting"
3 stars

I have always loved David Bowie, particularly in his deft ability to use image as inspiration. There's very few rockers with the sustained inventiveness--and versatility--Bowie displayed at least in his first twelve years. Same with Roxy Music, and Iggy Pop, and Lou Reed.

Do not for a second mistake this film as their story, and you may actually enjoy it.

Elements of all of these are mixed together, true. But like a stew, with one chunk soaked in the juices of another. What an unfortunate choice of words!...

Oddly, the main signature tunes of the supposed Bowie(and perhaps Bolan) figure, Brian Slade(what a clunker of a name), are all from Roxy Music's first album, as though that's all Todd Haynes had ever heard. The music, almost throughout, by the way, is incredible. The Shudder to Think pastisches of Bowie are all right if you don't lusten very hard. Lots of really good Roxy, the only Eno(ironically) I've ever heard in a movie, and oh BOY, some damn good Iggy Pop.

And frankly, I wished Iggy had been the main figure here. Jonathan Rhys-Myers as Slade is mostly a pouting, preening little wretch who actually thinks he's as interesting as the director apparently finds him. I scratch my head. Why, I wonder, doesn't he take that wax set of novelty lips from his mouth? Oh, they're HIS? Nope, those have to be implants.I found myself wanting to see the opening scene, in which Brian is "shot" at a concert(it was a hoax and drove all those who used to like him away), again in slow motion. Just one more Eurotrash Hollywood pretty boy.

But when Ewan MacGregor is first seen performing(he does "TV Eye" and "Gimme Danger", and very convincingly), he grabs your attention and will not let go. He IS Iggy, in the same sense Gary Oldman was Sid Vicious; his performance is so well-studied and done with such obvious fun that you forget it's a performance. The movie never reaches such a blisteringly intense point as his rendition of "TV Eye," which is everything Oliver Stone wished he'd done in the Doors. MacGregor obviously loves what he's doing and shares that.

Some real flaws: There's this character called Jack Fairy about whom a great deal is said by voice-over at the beginning(with a totally unrelated and stupid bit about Oscar Wilde), who was some kind of inspiration for glam(the general feel and joy of which the movie does articulate gorgeously), but it's never said how, nor does he speak, nor perform till the end, at a tribute to Slade, singing a Roxy song that's being presented as a Slade song...ANYWAY...If he's so important, why does Hayne give us no reason why we should give a rat's ass about him, except that he tells us we should? This smells like a very poorly edited script to me.

Christian Bale, as a gay British journalist for whom Slade was a great encourager for his coming out--which still seems rather closeted--investigates the hoax on its 10th anniversary, in a structure inexcusably stolen whole and undigested from CITIZEN KANE. That's just lazy. Bale looks angry every minute of the film and you really want to either reassure him or slug him.

Nevertheless, a lot of my gay friends have told me Bowie's example did play a part in giving them the courage to come out--though it's in doubt if he was himself even really bisexual--and I don't think it'd be out of place for me to say that makes it an important subject, and a particular scene in which a teenage Bale's parents catch him masturbating over a picture of Slade, a sort of horrific inversion of PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT, a glimpse of the personal emotional power the subject has for Haynes is seen, but not focused on as much as it could've been. The film, like its subject, cares very little about substance, which may be appropriate. It does have sleek, glossy style to spare, and I'd say that, behind THE ICE STORM and BOOGIE NIGHTS, this is a worthy 70s revival flick, if you like that sort of thing.

See it, but you'll only want to see Ewan MacGregor's scenes more than once. Till we have a good concert video of Iggy Pop, this is the closest substitute. It's not exactly bad. It's just not exactly anything.

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originally posted: 09/04/99 21:41:11
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User Comments

9/13/09 Florio Was expecting more. Why did Toni Collette's accent change from British to American? 3 stars
2/09/08 emma intricately structured plot which gives credit to the intelligence of the audience 5 stars
8/29/05 Racg Ewan. Naked. Does it need further explanation? n_n 5 stars
6/23/05 Albert Einstein This movie sucked balls 1 stars
6/11/05 Lucy Naked people shouldn't jump...unless you're Ewan McGregor. 4 stars
6/10/05 Julia Great movie with great actors! 5 stars
5/30/05 Alyson An electrifying movie. Ewan is a hot rockstar. Yes!! 5 stars
5/27/04 Ms Flaming Creature This is an amazing glammy film with all the most fabulous people in it. Vive glitter! 5 stars
9/26/03 Les beauty 5 stars
3/25/03 Jack Sommersby Good music, glacially paced story. Underwhelming performance by Bale. 2 stars
2/03/03 Janelle Rocky Horror meets Eddie and the Cruisers 5 stars
1/21/03 Rene Flashy, stylish and Ewan is yummy! It's flamboyant and all around entertaining. 5 stars
1/18/03 kaite this film is awsome 5 stars
11/25/02 Charles Tatum A film that literally rocked 5 stars
10/05/02 Padraic almost as good as trainspotting 5 stars
9/15/02 Crystal a fucking grate movie. Ewan is such a hottie 5 stars
6/10/02 I'm in (L) with a Jedi i (L) ewan 5 stars
5/26/02 fjkdljskfds mcgreggor and rhys myers? hotttt... 4 stars
5/24/02 natasha amazing performances of Ewan McGregor and Toni Colette give stunning visuals honest core 5 stars
4/22/02 jay it has ewan mcgregor and johnny kissing!!!!!!!! need i say more? 4 stars
4/22/02 Kathryn Lush!Because it had Ewan McGregor & Jonathon Rhys Myers in it! 4 stars
4/05/02 Edfink Lombardo Interesting costumes...Adds nothing new to the genre, but it's not awful either.. 3 stars
2/04/02 The Movie Club It Sucked Bad!!!! And we LIKE weird movies!! 1 stars
9/07/01 darrin perrone fucking terrific!!!!loved it 5 stars
8/10/01 Adrian "like a slap on my ass by a lipstick-kissed elbow glove" 5 stars
8/04/01 Alana Piersanti Beautiful and confusing, but in a good way. MacGregor is BREATHTAKING!!!! 5 stars
8/01/01 Vixor awesome movie, with an awesome cast- Jonathon Rhys Meyers rocks- the music was great 5 stars
7/21/01 gus it's not bad 5 stars
7/02/01 jason total pretentious arty shit 1 stars
4/21/01 Rose Rocking film!! Loved the perfromance by Brian Molko as the singer in the Flaming Creatures! 5 stars
4/21/01 viking An intriguing look at the glam era. Some great musical numbers. 4 stars
4/17/01 Rose .g i think the cast was pretty hot and the plot was good 5 stars
3/14/01 perverted pixie Rhys, Molko, Izzard, as Hell. The film? A mess. But a darn funky one! 5 stars
1/23/01 Lyra jonny is amazing! i love this movie! 5 stars
1/06/01 oh su jeong fun 1 stars
1/04/01 Cora van Voornamen I thought it was fabulous 5 stars
5/02/00 Joel Hunt rhis movie is captivating, if only for the costunes and songs. 4 stars
4/24/00 Ryan A storybook film... how great 4 stars
4/02/00 Tera Brilliant, thought Brian Slade is a prick 5 stars
3/23/00 georgia xanthopoulou absolutely PERFECT 5 stars
3/07/00 J. AlŠn Blankenship Great music, cast, story, EVERYTHING...A real classic. 5 stars
2/17/00 Bozo a major disappointment for me but its always nice seeing Ewan's schlong 2 stars
2/15/00 Neil Austin good thing...EDDIE IZZARD 2 stars
1/21/00 PervertedPixie Rhys Meyers, Bale, Ewan, Ed Izzard and Brian Molko, all in one foxy flick! 5 stars
8/17/99 John Roberson Ewan MacGregor's performance is all that save this thing. 3 stars
6/10/99 Kate It has Ewan....Nude. Great costumes/makeup. And just a lot of fun. 5 stars
1/02/99 FERAL BERAL flashback films are always difficult and this one dosn't work.overall disapointing film 3 stars
12/20/98 Tom Ripley Worth a look, yes, but what was the point? There's really nothing new here. 4 stars
12/06/98 Mr Showbiz An opulent paean to the glam rock scene. Juicy entertainment, pure and simple. 4 stars
11/25/98 Bridgette jonathan rhys meyers, ewan mcgregor-- both deliciously wonderful. a trite boring though. 4 stars
11/23/98 Pascal B I have to disagree: except for costumes, this film sucked in a terminally boring way. 2 stars
11/20/98 J Sweet 5 stars
11/20/98 evil buffy love ewan, so i had to see it. kinda no plot but still lots of fun to see, intersting. 4 stars
11/11/98 Ebbster sexy story and soundtrack, flawed story-telling, terrific acting all around 4 stars
11/10/98 jeff j. Monstrously off-target. So long. 1.D. characterization 1 stars
10/19/98 Aint-It-Cool Todd Haynesí new glam rock extravaganza is a dud. Don't bother. 2 stars
8/30/98 {{{OZ}}} a winner at Cannes, and one of the best films of this year. McGregor not up to standard. 5 stars
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  06-Nov-1998 (R)
  DVD: 01-Mar-2005


  05-Nov-1998 (MA)

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