In 1984, twentysomething journalist Arthur Stuart (Christian Bale) is sent by his paper to investigate the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of glam rock star Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Myers) a decade previously. The rise and fall of the singer, Arthur's pop idol as a teenager, is related in flashback as the reporter looks for an angle on the story. Director Todd Haynes examines the allure of glam and the insecurities of those who chose the eyeliner and sequins route to stardom, with Ewan McGregor as Iggy Pop-a-like rocker Curt Wild.
Somewhat misleadingly described by many as a mock-biopic based on the life of David Bowie, Velvet Goldmine
is so much more than that. Journalist Arthur Stuart (Christian Bale) who sets out to discover whatever happened to Ziggy Stardust-like Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), the famous bisexual glam star who crashed and burned spectacularly, but in the process helped Arthur awaken his own sexuality. It's an insane homage to 1970s glam rock in the UK as only American, who knew the movement from a distance, would make; it's a tribute to film director Nicolas Roeg's best work, particularly Performance
and the Bowie-vehicle The Man Who Fell to Earth
; it's a sci-fi movie about an alternative reality (the film's "present" is a 1984 that never existed and frustratingly never clearly explained); it's a queer Citizen Kane
with lashings of eye-glitter, a complete mess, an absolute delight and a chance to see Ewan McGregor naked in case you didn't catch him in The Pillow Book
as the Iggy Pop-like Curt Wild, Slade's lover/protégé.
Director Todd Haynes, who made the incredibly spare Safe and a biopic about Karen Carpenter with Barbie dolls, crams in everything--including the kitchen sink, all the washing-up and half the larder--as if terrified he'll never get another chance to shoot even a commercial again. The pacing drags like catwalk-queen's glittery taffeta train at times, but then glorious swooping musical numbers and clever bits of allusive business arrive that will brighten the day of many a pop-fan and film-buff. Never anything less than ruthlessly inventive and demanding of patience and an open mind, it's one for connoisseurs. Viewers who prefer easy-viewing eye candy are well advised to stick with fluff like Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. --Leslie Felperin