Another week has just passed us by and we’re bringing you another Ewan McGregor flick because, well, do we really need a reason? He gets his willy out in this one if that’s any consolation (probably not TBF) – plus, it really is rather a glamorous thrill ride this one (the film, not the willy).
Relax, I’m not going to make this entire post all about the swinging appendage that is Ewan McGregor’s front junk but I would like to. Luckily for all concerned, this film has enough else going for it that I won’t need to mention it again (maybe once more).
It’s my choice this week, next week we’ll be spending time in Hell with the Cenobites once more (or will we?). Until then, it’s platform heels and crushed velvet bell bottoms all the way.
Shall we begin, class?
*As always spoilers*
Velvet Goldmine (1998)
IMDB Synopsis: 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.
Arthur Stuart (Bale) is a journalist tasked with finding out what happened to notorious glam rocker Brian Slade, after an ill-advised publicity stunt all but obliterates his career in the seventies. It is now 1984 and things look pretty grey in comparison to the Technicolor disco ball dream of the swinging seventies.
Stuart is himself gay and following a series of vignettes, we learn a few things about his difficult personal journey and how it runs parallel with the lives and loves of Slade himself, and Slade’s long-term inspiration, Curt Wild.
Importantly, we get to see just how these men have had a personal influence on Arthur.
Whilst seeking out Brian Slade, Arthur interviews a collection of people who have been touched in some way or another by the enigmatic and flamboyant star, including Slade’s one time wife, Mandy Slade; his former manager and a lot of people in between.
The question on Arthur’s mind (and thus, ours) is: what became of Brian Slade and where the fuck is he now?
VG undulates all over the place time-wise so this post will be anything but linear. It doesn’t matter at all though as the meandering lends the film a dreamy tone that compliments its subject matter. Plus, you mostly just came along for the ride, didn’t you?
Arthur’s memories help us piece together a picture of what his home life was like before he fell into the glam rock lifestyle and essentially finally found himself a tribe to which he belonged. Like Bowie did for many people, so Brian Slade and later, Curt Wild gave Arthur the inner strength to find himself and later come out, to the horror of his conservative parents.
On the night of the ‘assassination of Brian Slade’ (which is later uncovered to be a hoax), Arthur is there and this act proves to be a turning point in not only his life, but Slade’s too.
The trajectory of Slade’s glittering career isn’t perfect, however after years on the circuit without much to show for it, things start to look up for him. He ditches his loyal manager, Cecil (Michael Feast) for the slightly more funky Jerry Devine (Izzard) and things happen fast.
Slade also meets the fabulous Mandi and the pair quickly marry. They’re very much an ‘It’ couple, though it’s an open relationship where anything goes for our sexually fluid friends. Everyone’s happy and free until Slade travels to America to connect with a performer he’s had his eye on from almost the start, one Curt Wild.
(Our first introduction to Curt Wild is a rousing stage scene in which he gets stark bollock naked and fondles himself while the crowd jeers).
Slade gets his way and Wild comes to England to cut a record with him, though he brings with him his own battered baggage (junkie, innit). The pair share a connection that threatens the future of The Slades’ marriage and will change the course of all their lives forever.
Fame is also a bitch and as the pair get more and more known, and Slade allows himself to be taken over by his alter-ego “Maxwell Demon”, things start to fall apart irrevocably. Not to mention the fake shooting which fans are not at all amused by.
The breakdown off the Slades’ marriage is told to Arthur by Mandi herself, now nursing a stiff whiskey in a dive bar in London. She looks broken, a former shadow of her glitter bug self. Time has not been kind it would seem, and neither was Brian at the end of their bitter-sweet time together. You can’t help but feel sorry for her.
FYI, Slade-era Mandi has THE BEST WARDROBE EVER *heart eyes emoji*.
Meanwhile, Arthur is still searchin’ and hopin’ – and coming up empty handed. There’s no Brian Slade in the phone book, see. But his investigation leads him back to Curt Wild, who it turns out, has met Arthur before, though it’s not clear if he remembers. Arthur does though and the two share a moment.
Arthur has also been taken off the Slade story due to lack of public interest and put on coverage of the Tommy Stone tour. What does it all mean really?
Will Arthur finally work out the big mystery?
Loved it I did. I can’t believe it’s taken me 18 years to watch this movie. The performances are great across the board but I do feel as though this movie belongs to Toni Collette, who injects humanity into quite a superficial character, during quite a superficial period.
Ewan is perfect in all his Iggy Pop-esque glory and gives Curt heart where he could easily have been just another broken casualty of a hardcore lifestyle. I really believe that Curt loved Brian Slade, and it was beautiful and heartbreaking in equal measure.
I don’t like Rhy Meyers for some reason. I think it’s his haughty face which I’ll admit is perfect for Slade. Brian Slade isn’t one for heavy dialogue, he sings and he looks beautiful, those are his USPs. When he disappears you almost don’t notice, it’s like he was never really there, never really real. (Ooh deep).
I didn’t altogether buy the ending, it doesn’t seem feasible to me so I might need to talk that out with you, Jill! I was all a little like WHAAAAAAA? as the credits rolled. Maybe I misunderstood but it doesn’t ring very true to me. It’s almost like the ‘Grease ending’ – where the fuck did the flying car suddenly come from?
That’s my only criticism. This film was more or less made with me in mind.
I love that you can easily recognise real life performers here in their loose fictional disguises – Bowie! Pop! Bolan! – and it’s super fun. I also loved the smaller cameos throughout – Brian Molko! – the costume design, the music. It’s spot on.
My Rating: 4.5/5 -My disbelief in the ending is the only thing that marks this down.
Did Jillian want to kick up her platform boots and dye her mullet baby blue or is she ready to say goodbye to Glam Rock forever? See for yourself here.
NB: I nearly went on strike writing this review as I kept losing my work and had to type it from scratch at least twice. I nearly marked the film down for my technological frustrations, GODFUCKINGDAMMIT!
I’m over it now.