Velvet Goldmine… Where do I even begin? Here lies a truly colorful film – in both character development and aesthetic display. Some of the scenes are questionable in the sense that they don’t seem to fit with the entire movie. Other scenes make one think to oneself, “What the hell was this writer smoking?” But whether or not the viewer needs to be high in order to make sense of certain scenes, Velvet Goldmine is still a film worth watching. Maybe not for the plot (if you want a more organized perspective and experience of Rock n’ Roll from the viewpoint of a writer – stick to Almost Famous), but for the absolutely convincing performances of its actors.
I mentioned before in class that it was quite peculiar to see Batman and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Bale and McGregor respectively) prancing around as a bunch of queers. Although this film was released a little more than a decade ago, both actors (including Rhys Myers) have had many macho roles since. Everyone has to start somewhere. Nevertheless, it was a little unnerving to get a glimpse of their origins. But the more peculiar thing was how well they played their roles. Knowing that these guys have normally been playing macho characters in recent years only exemplifies their performances. For those scenes, I just couldn’t believe that these guys were straight. When The Dark Knight was released, Bale was pretty much my hero from then on – the only actor who gave the comic book Batman and Bruce Wayne the damn justice that they’ve deserved for so long. However, during the Bale-McGregor-sausage-in-a-bun sequence, I practically shouted, “Batman, you asshole!”
For the record, I didn’t find it wrong for Bale (or Rhys Myers or McGregor) to be playing a homosexual. What was “wrong” for me was how damn good they all were at it. The last film I saw McGregor in was “I love you Philip Morris” and in this film he did play a homosexual. But it was the cartoonish type of gay, as in, you knew he was messing around along with Jim Carrey. In Velvet Goldmine on the other hand, I just freaked out. Perhaps, if I had seen this film back in 1998, I’m pretty sure I would have believed that these guys were actually gay off screen, which leads me to my next point – the issue of authenticity.
In his book, “Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite,” Paul Arden quips that “authenticity is invaluable [and] originality is non-existent.” In this day and age, can anyone say that anything is truly “original” anymore Perhaps the opinion of most creatives is true – that genius isn’t invented, only discovered. In Velvet Goldmine, the concept of authenticity is repeatedly tackled both explicitly and implicitly. In one of the first scenes, Curt Wild is interviewed regarding the “bisexuality” of Glam Rock fans. He says, “You can’t fake being gay. If you’re gonna claim that you’re gay, you have to make love in homosexual style. Most of these kids aren’t gonna make it.” Whether it’s about being gay, or straight, or whatever, the point is – no one can fake being something they aren’t. Toni Coliette’s character – an American posing to be British – regularly switches her accents between American and British to the point that it becomes extremely annoying. The danger when dealing with authenticity is that if it’s anything less than genuine, people will see right through you. Coliette’s character is a testament to this fact.
On certain levels, many adolescents, including myself, can sympathize with Bale’s character, Arthur Stewart. He spends most of his teenage years in a constant struggle to express his true self and undertakes considerable measures to keep it from his parents. The expression one’s actual identity despite the fear of being judged by one’s peers (let alone parents) is a raging battle for adolescents everywhere. One can never say when this personal war will really be over, and which side shall prevail, but one thing is for certain – the battlefield will always be littered with corpses.