Sex, drugs, and rock and roll. This is pushed to excess in the movie Velvet Goldmine, which follows the life of rockstar extraordinaire Brian Slade, loosely based and inspired by the story of real life rock star David Bowie. In excess because a naked Ewan McGregor lets his penis dangle loose on stage in front of a stadium crowd, similar to what rock stars would actually do for the sake of theatrics.
Velvet Goldmine was a particularly hard film to watch, for many reasons. This is due to the fact that it relies on a non-linear narrative, wherein flashbacks are used in order to recount the story. In addition to having a lot of details to take in and digest, one would be confused as to whether a particular event actually took place. For instance, the scene wherein Curt Wild and reporter Arthur Stuart were seen making love with each other, was marred by the appearance of UFOs in the sky. Was this a dream sequence, or did it really happen? Of course we would be inclined to say the former. However, numerous scenes are presented in this fashion; seemingly misleading in the sense that the film wants you to believe that it really did happen? (Or maybe it’s just me.) Anyway, in addition to this, though the main objective of the film is in finding the missing Brian Slade, the film actually concerns itself with three major characters: Brian, Curt and Arthur. Thus the viewer needs to really pay attention to detail since the plot-centered film goes back and revisits a lot of these aspects later on.
Though as a viewer I found it was particularly hard to watch, it had a lot of great elements which I found worthy of mention. You’d have to give kudos to the three actors in the film: Jonathan Rhys Myers, Ewan McGregor and Christian Bale; for stepping out of their comfort zones as actors and taking on challenging roles such as this. Knowing their off stage demeanour and the roles which they are usually casted in, (Bale as the masculine and low-voiced Batman, out of all characters) it is quite surprising to see these actors play flits because they sure are convincing. In addition to this, I appreciated how the characters were not at all stereotypical or cardboard; they were unpredictable individuals without a care in the world. (Though perhaps this is due to the nature of the characters which they are playing.)
In summary, Velvet Goldmine is a film which manages to show both the dark side and the glamour behind the rock and roll scene. It manages to entertain yet be philosophically subtle at the same time. Even if the viewer isn’t really into that subculture, it still provokes the viewer into questioning his identity, and what he really stands for. To quote the conversation between Curt Wild and Arthur Stuart:
Curt Wild: We set out to change the world… ended up just changing ourselves.
Arthur Stuart: What’s wrong with that?
Curt Wild: Nothing, if you don’t look at the world.