Walter Mencken 9:21 p.m., Oct. 20
Cult Movie Reviews - Velvet Goldmine Channels '70s Glam and Oscar Wilde
The Citizen Kane of rock & roll movies, almost literally - even the framing sequence evokes Kane, with a present-day reporter charged with the task of rediscovering the rise and fall of a long-gone Ziggy Stardust-type rocker. Christian Bale is the closeted reporter, seen in the present as living in an almost monochromatic world, while his 8-track flashbacks to the trisexual '70s are painted on a palette of liquid LSD.
The story was originally intended as a sort of David Bowie bio-pic, but ended up a mix of urban legends cut from tales of Iggy Pop, Kurt Cobain, Bryan Ferry, Mick Jagger, Lou Reed, Jim Dandy, David Johansen, and others. The soundtrack mixes classic glam tracks by Lou Reed with new songs done for the film, performed by various supergroups with members of Placebo, the New York Dolls, and others.
Maybe it's not the REAL story of '70s glam rock, but it represents that scene better than any ten eps of VH1's "I Love the '70s" ---- I've played the entire soundtrack album at least once a month since I saw this flick on its first video release.
To trace the film's reliance on Oscar Wilde as its basis (he's seen and referenced in the movie as the world's first pop star), one need only follow Wilde's brooch jewelry, which he's seen losing early on --
First, future glam rocker Jack Fairy finds Wilde's brooch as a boy, seeming to be guided by Wilde's own tendency toward bawdy bacchanalia and pop creativity. Fledgling rocker Brian Slade steals the brooch from Fairy during a love tryst, and thus takes Fairy's place in the pop culture zeitgeist.
Slade gives the brooch to punk rock icon Curt Wild and subsequently finds his own star falling, as Curt takes on the task of epitomizing a modern day Wilde. However, Curt implodes (much like his historical antecedent), and ends up giving the brooch to - who else? - the Writer, Arthur Stuart, in search of what really happened to the glittery-glam world he once thought his generation had (re)created.
Would Arthur have returned to his carefree youth and once again embraced the colors and possibilities he enjoyed before the Death of Glam and Glitter? Given how Oscar Wilde's own spirit was all but crushed post-prison, probably not - the brooch was actually more curse than gift. Whether or not those briefly-glimpsed alien starships were responsible for starting it all.
Wilde's life rather than his work seems to be the story template. Curt only becomes (briefly) articulate and dandy-fied after he gets the brooch, and in fact is wearing it at the staged press conference where he and Brian Slade essentially dance a gay minuet, dressed as French royalty and announcing their personal and professional pairing - with a public kiss, no less, Curt now living out Oscar Wilde's unrestrained and indiscrete libido alongside Slade.
When a similar sort of public brou-ha-ha landed the real Wilde in prison, that all but broke him for the rest of his life, the same way fading punkstar Curt Wild seems to lose all inspiration and muse, withdrawing from bravado to whimper to "whatever happened to....."
I like to think Arthur Stuart ends up with the story of his career after the movie wraps, and that he eventually becomes a well-known and respected writer.
If he ends up far more celebrated in death than in life, well, then he will have lived out Wilde's own final chapters --- Arthur was probably buried wearing that effin brooch --
The unmade sequel: "Arthur later became Batman, the ultimate anti-glam hero...." That was a terrific homemade YouTube mashup, combining footage from Goldmine with Christian Bale's later Batman films, along with a few snippets of previous Bat-films.
Unfortunately, it keeps getting pulled for TOS violations --- pity, the shots of Curt Wild transforming into Robin AND Batgirl were hysterical! As was a brief bit with Adam West's Batman appearing to sing and dance to "TV Eye" (!?!), which appears the PERFECT accompaniment for Adam West's old TV "Bat-Dance" they ripped off in Pulp Fiction.
Here's Curt Wild channeling Iggy Pop AND Cobain in this riveting clip from near the end of the film (the tune is inexplicably absent from the official soundtrack album).
"Field Of Screens" -- Cover story 7-6-06: Complete theater-by-theater history of San Diego drive-ins thru the years, including interviews with operators and attendees, dozens of rare and unpublished photos, vintage local theater ads, and more. http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...
"Before It Was The Gaslamp: Balboa's Last Stand" -- Cover story 6-21-07: In the late 70s/early 80s, I worked at downtown San Diego's grindhouse all-night movie theaters. This detailed feature recalls those dayz, the death of the Balboa Theatre, etc., including interviews with operators, vintage local movie ads, and more. http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...
"Pussycat Theaters: When 'Cathouses Ruled California" -- for the first time, the inside story of the west coast Pussycat Theater chain of adult moviehouses, which peaked in the '70s but later died out. Company head Vince Miranda owned and lived part time at the Hotel San Diego, operating several other local theaters downtown and in Oceanside, Escondido, etc. Told by those who actually ran the theaters, with a complete theater-by-theater encyclopedia covering every Pussycat that ever screened in CA -- http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...
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