Where is Brian Slade, front man of glam rock band Venus in Furs? In 1974 he was a teen idol in Britain and together with his wife Mandy (Toni Colette) and American rocker Curt Wild and his band Wylde Ratttz created an outrageous storm. Until he disappears .
Ten years later, journalist Arthur Stuart (an adorable Christian Bale), is set the task of tracking him down. As his investigation progresses vignettes of the characters involved in his career are interwoven with Arthur’s own memories of being a fan, glam rock and youth culture in Britain in the ’70’s.
Written and directed by Todd Haynes in 1998, Velvet Goldmine is a carnival of costumes (Sandy Powell) and music. Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Ewan McGregor are gaspingly, shockingly, sensational as Brian Slade and Curt Wild. But the wildness stops, often abruptly, when the memories are Arthur’s own. The dreary streets, getting on a bus, feeling an outsider as he remembers being a teenager and idolising Brian Slade, his sexually fluid, androgynous hero who gives him the strength to come out to his dismally repressed parents and leave them in their living room, with their backs to the wall. While I laughed and gasped at Slade and Wild, it was Arthur Stuart and his quest for excitement in the hum-drum, boring ’70’s that resonated with me!
On the poster it says ‘leave your expectations at the door’, and that’s it in a nutshell – Velvet Goldmine begins with the birth of Oscar Wilde in 1854 and sets him up as the progenitor of glam rock – passing on the love with an emerald that once belonged to him and that finds its way through time handed from one icon to another. And is now with Jack Fairy (Micko Westmoreland).
And this is why I need to watch it again. It’s so visual that it’s impossible to take it all in in one go. Oscar Wilde quotes and allusions are sprinkled throughout and the music references, starting with the David Bowie title and the band names are plentiful – Brian Eno, Lou Reed and Jarvis Cocker are just three of the musicians who worked on the film and best for me, there’s loads of Marc Bolan.