Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Velvet Goldmine.

There are movies that are "based on a true story!," and then there are thinly veiled, barely fictionalized re-enactments of history. This was the latter, and then some. Basically, it was the story of David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust days recast as Citizen Kane, with a preposterous, pretentious intro involving Oscar Wilde. The pop-music-through-time conceit, and the presence of Ewan McGregor, calls to mind Moulin Rouge, while the Wilde reference and the outlandish set pieces seem like a deliberate reference to Ken Russell. (I would have liked to have seen what he could have done with this material, or, if not him, at least Derek Jarman.)

This movie was pretty unfair to Bowie. Sure, he was a wanker in the 1980s, but he was more or less upfront about it. In this movie, the Bowie character, called Brian Slade, fakes his own death onstage, then reveals that it was a hoax. With his career ruined, he vanishes from the public eye. Ten years later, intrepid boy reporter Christian Bale is assigned to track him down. It turns out -- SPOILER ALERT! -- that he's now a slick, packaged rock star in a cream-colored leisure suit selling bland, facile pop music to the masses, much like Bowie himself circa 1984. Meanwhile, the Iggy Pop character, called Curt Wild, has, I guess, remained true to his roots and suffered in obscurity ... it was hard to tell. But who cares? Ewan "Obi-Wan" McGregor, gamely whooping it up through "TV Eye" as Iggy/Curt, whipped out his, uh, light-saber, YET AGAIN. It's bad enough I have to put up with his pale Scottish privates every time I sit down to watch Trainspotting. Now here he goes again. And another thing -- Iggy was never this flabby. Elijah Wood is supposed to be playing Iggy in a new movie coming out next year. Hmmm...

All in all, this movie was a mess. Good soundtrack, though, with some imaginative performances of both original glam rock tracks and some new songs written just for the movie. One highlight was a cover of Brian Eno's Baby's On Fire, performed by Jonathan Rhys Meyers in character as Brian Slade in character as Maxwell Demon.

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