Seeing Velvet Goldmine after Blowup is somewhat refreshing. Even if it throws us back and forth, from past to present and vice versa, the storytelling follows a linear structure. We know why one event leads to another.
Despite its tendency to explain everything, Velvet Goldmine still maintains a sense of vagueness and mystery to it. For once, the story of how writer Oscar Wilde comes from somewhere in space and is brought to earth as a baby is really weird. He has no connections to the main characters, nor has influenced them, except for a piece of jewelry that ultimately ends up with the journalist, Arthur. It may represent how genius and fame, in the case of Brian Slade, is predestined, and how a person’s fate, in poetic terms, is written in the stars as the brooch is passed from one person to another. Although the camera focuses on it several times, it doesn’t really appear as some kind of Chekhov’s gun. The characters are not really drawn into the brooch but rather to the person possessing it.
The scenes wherein kids are staring at the sky, or whatever that is up there, also seem out of place. Regardless how strange they look, those scenes and the fairytale-like narration actually work. For someone not familiar with glam rock, seeing it for the first time gives an out-of-this-world feel. It is just unbelievably crazy; loud and macho but colorful and feminine at the same time.
Unlike Blowup which builds up really slow, this one drops a huge bomb at the very beginning, establishing itself as some kind of faux-murder investigation. From this point forward, we get to see a conventional yet unconventional murder mystery-thriller. It is conventional because the events prior to and following Slade’s “death” are revealed, and we are given with a character whose investigation of a rock icon’s disappearance has its personal origins. It makes the movie more compelling; a character that connects with Brian Slade the repression of his own sexual orientation. Now its unconventionality, probably the best thing I like and don’t like about the movie, is the fact that it leaves us with several missing pieces (like in a jigsaw puzzle). It may look obvious that Slade has to literally reinvent himself to recover his career but in actuality, the film leaves a huge gap (in years) between the time we last saw him high on drugs and when Arthur realizes that he is Tommy Stone. There are no behind-the-scenes; we don’t really know what happens during this time. We only learn from the interviews, data gathered by the investigator.
Okay, this is weird but it reminds me of a review of Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never (film). The critic says that even if it is entertaining, it fails as a documentary because the subject himself has not been interviewed. In Velvet Goldmine, we see the story of Brian Slade the way his former manager and ex-wife see it, but we never hear from him his own version of his story. That does not necessarily mean it fails.