Velvet Goldmine reminds me a lot of other films based on the backgrounds of legendary bands and rockstars. But unlike other films that show the nitty gritty behind- the- scenes stories of these artists, Velvet Goldmine struck me as very over- the- top and theatrical, and also very gay. And although the characters are seen in sexual scenes, man on man, it wasn’t disturbing for me, it was actually quite convincing. Many of the sex scenes seemed dream- like, like the one between Mandy and Brian Slade where their bodies were indistinguishable, and the one between Curt Wild and Arthur Stewart where their bodies were easy to differentiate. In my opinion, it was the relationship between Mandy and Brian that was very real, because from the beginning Mandy was there to support Brian. The relationship between Brian and Curt, however, seemed to me as one of infatuation, just as the relationship between Curt and Arthur did. It was always who was at the top and who was at the bottom, with one of them reaching up and one of them reaching down, never at the same level.
Having a powerful cast of now Hollywood top actors, Ewan McGregor and Christian Bale, I expected the movie to be very pretty boy like, but I didn’t get this. I didn’t even see them as the roles they’re famous for now, which was very pleasing. I could watch the film without expectations.
Velvet Goldmine is similar in a way to Blow Up that both of the main characters are arranging and piecing together information or evidence to come up with a solution or explanation. The photographer in Blow Up arranges the “murder photos” while Arthur Stewart, a journalist, pieces together the story of Brian Slade and his framed death. Arthur Stewart, however, was the more interesting character for me because we see in the film his background: his brother who insults him at the record store for buying Brian Slade as a teenager, him masturbating to the music and image of Brian Slade, him telling his father that he’s like Brian Slade when they see him on TV- he’s a very sad, desperate character. And both Arthur Stewart and the photographer are seemingly lost characters in a colorful world.
Another similarity would be the incorporation of music. Blow Up was set in the Swinging 60’s and there’s even a scene where an underground gig is being held but the audience is rather dead. Velvet Goldmine was set in the 70’s era of Glam Rock and had a very musical feel to it what with the music video- like sequences and the hype they showed that Glam Rock had during the time. The music becomes a device for the film to flow or go from one point to the next.
Their difference would be though that Blow Up is rather open- ended, while Velvet Goldmine is more fully developed. Blow Up doesn’t end with a resolution, while Velvet Goldmine does, just not with enough closure. We see Curt Wild and Arthur Stewart meet again in a pub, and now they’re both on the same level, they can’t help each other out. Curt Wild for me, was the ambiguous character, because it is in this last scene where we don’t know whether he remembers Arthur or if their short- lived affair ever happened. But he does give Arthur the Oscar Wilde brooch and it is here that Arthur realizes what a waste his chasing and longing for their world was. And even though this realization is sad, the music at the end is happy, resolving the film, but still giving enough room for other interpretation and thought.