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Velvet Goldmine (1998, Ewan McGregor, Jonathan Rhys Meyers)

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One of the most ambitious British movies ever made, this dazzling tribute to the heyday of glam rock split audiences and critics into rival factions. Was it a daring work of art? Or simply pretentious nonsense? As the debate raged, few seemed to realise that this was precisely the point director Todd Haynes was making: the reactions to the film are exactly the reactions that faced glam some 25 years ago.

Could glam rock really be considered art? Or was it just a bunch of bricklayers showing off in feather boas? Or as he told Neon magazine at the time, ‘I wanted the film to be glam rock, rather than about glam rock.’

Born in Los Angeles, Haynes saw the glam rock phenomenon as an outsider, being both too young and too far away from the action to join in. The film itself mirrors this, blurring fact with fiction almost as though it’s come straight from Haynes’ own rose-tinted nostalgic memory, and presents its not-so-serious storyline with tongue-in-cheek sideswipes at classic rock movie cliches. It opens in New York, 1984, where ex-pat British jourmalist Arthur (Christian Bale) is assigned a story. His task is to find the reclusive Bryan Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a David Bowie-esque singer who fell from grace in the late ’70s after a brief reign as rock’s most flamboyant, decadent and ultimately self-destructive rock star. But in playing detective, Arthur is reminded of his own painful adolescence, and finds their stories unexpectedly connected.

Deceptively clever and beautifully acted, particularly by the elegantly blank Rhys Meyers, Velvet Goldmine catches the adrenaline rush of youth culture. And most important of all, the soundtrack – some period classics and some written especially for the film by fake bands made up of modern musicians (members of Buffalo Tom, Radiohead and Elastica) and the odd original (most notably Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera) – is suitably platform-stomping.

production details
UK | 119 minutes | 1998

Director: Todd Haynes
Script: Todd Haynes, James Lyons,

cast
Ewan McGregor as Curt Wild
Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Brian Slade
Christian Bale as Arthur Stuart
Janet McTeer as Female narrator (voice)
Toni Collette as Mandy Slade
Eddie Izzard as Jerry Devine
Emily Woof as Shannon
Michael Feast as Cecil
Micko Westmoreland as Jack Fairy
Alastair Cumming as Tommy Stone
Joseph Beattie as Cooper
Lindsay Kemp as Pantomime Dame
Ganiat Kasumu as Mary
David Hoyle as Freddi
Don Fellows as Lou

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