Before actually seeing Velvet Goldmine, we were told in class that it was a rock and roll film set in the 70’s. Not having seen a trailer or any posters prior to watching the film, this got me excited – being a musician myself. I thought that a rock and roll movie couldn’t be so bad especially after seeing Blow-Up the previous meeting.
When the film opened with the story of Oscar Wilde’s childhood, I seemed to have completely forgotten about any expectations I might have had and just sort of went with it – I was interested. The film held on to my attention a bit more, showing kids running through London streets to get to a rock show. It reminded me of myself during my younger years, going to see bands I looked up to. By the time Brian Slade stepped on stage and his band started playing, cueing the mob of fans to storm into the concert, I was actually excited to watch the movie. Then the iconic star that everyone came to see gets shot onstage, and the mystery just makes me more eager to find out what might happen next. It appeared to be a rock and roll film surrounded by a murder mystery to be solved by the eyewitness Arthur Stuart. How could I not be intrigued?
This didn’t last much longer, however, as my interest in the film gradually declined from then onwards. Though I do agree that the film did show the influence the icons’ music had on their audience, some sort of behind-the-scenes peek at the real life challenges that came with the fame they had achieved, and the glamorous lifestyles the rock stars lived, the film just seemed to digress farther and farther away from what caught my attention in the beginning. It seemed to become less and less about the music, the stars, and the murder of Brian Slade even. It started to seem as though it wasn’t at all about David Bowie and Iggy Pop and their effect on the world of music and the world beyond that – as though it wasn’t a rock and roll film at all. As the movie progressed it felt more and more like it was a film made in homage to homosexuality. This for me felt like the film pulled a 180, falsely advertising itself as something it was not. I feel as though I was put in a certain state of mind at the beginning of the film, made to want to see certain things, but given something completely different. I’m not saying that the film was bad, I just think this caused me to be disappointed that I didn’t end up getting what the film made me want to get from it.
A redeeming quality of Velvet Goldmine on the other hand, would have to be the actors’ performances in the film. I remember talking about how it was distracting that now huge stars Ewan McGregor and Christian Bale play extremely different roles in this film that we’re used to seeing them play. I completely agree with a point raised in class however, it wasn’t much of a distraction because of how believable their performances were. In Velvet Goldmine, Ewan McGregor wasn’t Obi Wan Kenobi and Christian Bale wasn’t Batman – they were Curt Wild and Arthur Stuart, and I never thought of them as anyone else.
Also in line with our discussion in class, in the end I think this just goes to show how external factors significantly affect a person’s viewing experience. I don’t necessarily think that Velvet Goldmine was a completely bad film. Everything I thought and felt from before seeing it to after, however, seems to have prevented me from enjoying it. After everything, expectations from what we see and hear seem to be just as important as how well or poorly a film is made.