Velvet Goldmine

Year 1998

Whoring It Up:

Ewan McGregor as  Curt Wild
Jonathan Rhys-Meyers    as Brian Slade
Toni Collette as Mandy Slade
Christian Bale   as Arthur Stuart   
Eddie Izzard as Jerry Divine
Director - Todd Haynes
Screenwriter - Todd Haynes  

Here's a drinking game for you. Every time the word "gay" is used in Velvet Goldmine (VG), take a drink. You won't last five minutes.

This movie was touted as depicting the "glam rock" of the 70s. The title is from a David Bowie song that wasn't released as part of his "Ziggy Stardust" until the coming out (pun intended) of CDs. In truth VG is simply the mundane confession of someone who's a closet homosexual. This is the stuff of personal diaries, so do us all a favor and keep your soiled undies in the drawer.

I was around during the 70s when Jagger did Performance, and Bowie's sexual preference was a topic of conversation among all people, young and old, and Mott the Hoople released "All the Young Dudes". No one that I knew felt awakened or released by any of this. It was entertaining, interesting, and curious.

And we certainly did not use the word "gay". We used other words. Words that are considered derogatory today but weren't then. That's because back when this movie supposedly took place, the word "gay" meant happy in an 1890's kind of way or it was a girl's name. (Both of those uses of the word have since been ruined.)

The movie plot is a sad remake of Eddie and the Cruisers without any original music. In Eddie and the Cruisers, an up and coming, visionary rock star dies and a reporter investigates his life and times. In VG, it's the same except the star is at the peak of his career.

So, why is this movie offensive according to the questions? Not necessarily for the reasons you might think.

#1 I would say that VG focuses on a minor aspect of a special time in rock music. In the 70's, a lot of taboos were exposed for being Victorian in their roots. "Sex, drugs, and rock and roll" was the chant. Targets for the barbs included anything accepted as iconic simply because it "was always that way".

The Vietnam Conflict was being recognized as the Vietnam War. The federal government, in order to pacify the revolution (and there was one in progress), lowered the drinking age to eighteen and did away with the draft. Civil rights laws of the 60's were being enforced. And the music changed.

In the end, I would have to say that this movie truly distorts historical events and societal upheavals for commercial, and seemingly personal, purposes.

#3 The acting is hit and miss. For a supposedly exuberant time, I've never seen a bigger bunch of whiners and complainers. The main reporter is a wall flower. The people fronting the money for this film should have used a cardboard cut-out and saved themselves some money.

But, even if the acting is poor, the guys are cookie cutter pretty. I have to give them that.

#4 The diaglogue isn't as inane as it is unfocused. This movie was originally intended to be the life of Bowie's Ziggy Stardust character. Bowie didn't give permission to use his creation, so the writer's came up with this other "plot" (or soapbox for homosexual acceptance, if you prefer). In retrospect, Bowie made the right choice.

If I'm supposed to be learning about this pseudo-Ziggy, why do I have to see the young version of the reporter (he's not a reporter at the time of the movie, he's just a confused teenager) walk in on two old men having sex? It reminded me of the scene in Kubrick's The Shining where two guys in costumes are having sex. At least Kubrick's scene was intended to be creepy.

Another scene that bothered me had to do with the main character leaving his parents, walking outside, taking off his "conservative" shirt, and throwing it in the trash in the front yard. Yeah, it's symbolic. But couldn't he have found a better place than outside of his front window with his parents supposedly not watching?

Let's talk about the music. As mentioned, there's nothing original about the music. This is both good and bad. I enjoyed hearing some of the old obscure songs from the likes of Roxy Music. But, according to the movie, the lead singer of Roxy Music, Brian Ferry, did not sing their song "2HB" (short for To Humphrey Bogart). According to the movie, it was the foppish composer Brian Eno who wrote and sang the song in a transvestite bar.

The character who is mimicking Eno apparently got the costume from one of Roxy Music's albums, feathers and all. Considering that Brian Ferry wrote and sang the song for the album, I seriously doubt that Eno performed it solo in a transvestite club.

It was fun for a while listening to the music and trying to guess what 70's performer was being portrayed (parodied?), but constantly getting the "gay is good" hammer being banged on the screen got to be too much.

I lasted with movie until I saw someone attempt to portray Iggy Pop. I've seen "The Iggster" in concert and enjoyed it. Iggy was and is an exhibitionist. No big deal. His music's good and he's an entertainer.

I did not want to watch this movie's portrayal of the punk icon degenerate into some sort of homosexual tryst. If anything, it should have gone the other way - sex to music. The music is the high point and the ultimate musician's goal of a communion of minds. Sex is a personal thing.

At that point, I turned off the movie, popped in "Funhouse" and cranked up "T.V. Eye". Ah, the real sound of the 70's!

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