Velvet Goldmine: Glam or Sham
“Although what you are about to see is a work of fiction, it should never the less be played at maximum volume,” (Velvet Goldmine, 1998), white letters on a black background fade in and then out to a shooting star. Writer and director Todd Haynes borrows from David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust, Mick Jagger, and Citizen Kane to piece together this montage film in rock-opera style; but does it work or is it just another movie about our own sexual revolution set to music? What does Oscar Wilde, born in Dublin in 1851, and Glam Rock, which thrived from 1969 through 1975, have in common? If you believe Todd Haynes' drama/music movie Velvet Goldmine, then gay author Oscar Wilde was brought to earth in a spaceship, left at the Wilde's front door, and in his childhood yearns to be a pop star. “The characters in this movie consider Wilde to be the godmother of all that is glam,” (Feaster, 1999); and all are connected to Wilde by a broach with a green “space” gem embedded in it, the gem itself changes hands through out the movie, and is a force of power and greed throughout. Haynes uses flashbacks to tell the story in a Citizen Kane style; Glam icon Brian Slade (aka Maxwell Demon) is at the height of his career and in 1974 he stages his own death during a performance. The movie flashes forward to 1984 in drab Reagan era New York City and British born reporter, Arthur Stuart, is on the trail of his childhood glam idol Brian Slade. Stuart's editor's want him to write the piece because of his connection to the glam scene and his UK roots 10 years earlier. The audience is treated to flashbacks of Stuart's early life, and the progression of his sexual awareness through the glam scene. Like Citizen Kane (1941), Haynes uses interviews with those close to Slade and Arthur’s own personal experiences, to tell the story of who Brian Slade was, and who he is now. Arthur Stuart, our reporter, experiences much internal conflict during this film, the time period that he is reliving is when he came of age sexually and through his own flashbacks he remembers his first man-man sexual encounter with Curt Wild, Brain Slade’s ex-lover, also a huge glam/rock icon during the 1970s. This part of his life looks painful for him to remember, but I think the audience will realize that at the time it happened he felt as though his broken spirit had connected with another broken spirit. In the end, when he does find Brian Slade (lost glam icon), who he has become is more disconcerting to Stuart than who Stuart ended up being. Even though it is apparent that Stuart is still uncomfortable with his homosexuality, Slade has changed his name to Tommy Stone and become a televangelist, in fact, the largest televangelist in television land; and has been hiding from that earlier period of his life for the last 10 years. Haynes ends the move with Stuart and Wild running into each other in a dive bar after attending a Tommy Stone show, where it's hard to tell at first if Wild recognizes Stuart. Through quick flashes the audience finds out that the relationship between Stuart and Wild was more than a one-night stand, and that Wild now has the infamous broach that he explains is rumored to have belonged to Oscar Wilde. Wild gives the broach to Stuart, and leaves him with, “We set out to change the world, and ended up just changing ourselves,” (Curt Wild, 1998). While many scenes and information are based on historical fact, director Haynes combines or alters them for special effect. Kurt Wild is Iggy Pop with Lou Reed's abusive confused childhood; Wild's, just like Reed's, parents sent him to a mental institution at a young age to “fry to fairy clean out of him,” (Velvet Goldmine, 1998). Slade's back-up band is called “Venus in Furs”, which is a reference to a song written by Lou Reed for his band “The Velvet Underground. Jack Fairy (Miko Westmoreland) is a cross between Brian Eno and Bryan Ferry, both of the band “Roxy Music”, and...
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