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VELVET GOLDMINE

SYNOPSIS:
It was a time when rock and roll lifestyle defined itself. To be part of the ‘in crowd’ you had to be wild, reckless and downright selfish. Drugs and sex were both indulged in to excess and cocktails of both were mixed with no thought for the consequences. Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a mythical rock-god, who drove London wild with his bisexual lifestyle and controversial views, was the epicentre of these orgiastic goings on. Suddenly Brian disappears after a publicity stunt at a concert goes wrong. Ten years later Arthur Start (Christian Bale), writer for the New York Herald, is set the task of find out what happened to Brian Slade. Through his investigations, Arthur discovers more than he thought possible. About Brian Slade, and indeed, himself.

"It takes talent to make a film about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll boring. This interminable movie boasts just such talent; it is style over substance, and even the style needs attention. Todd Haynes manages to remove all meaning from the story, by his campy attention to staged pieces and a series of non sequiteurs that pump death into the life story of a glam-rock star clearly inspired by David Bowie’s early years. But none of the characters engage; none of the events stick together; none of the intention is realised. Good acting talent is wasted in the fight through a script that has been (mis)assembled by an Edward Scissorhands. Even the glam rock scenes are unrecognisable. Ugghh!"
Andrew L. Urban

"There are dazzling moments, and there is style in many of the flamboyant, striking visuals. Yet, Todd Haynes seems to be carried away by his own aspirations here, ending up with a film which is painfully long and whose script is murky and confused. Bottom line - the style works, the drama doesn’t. The excessive world of the 70’s is colourful, and there’s plenty to saturate the palate. There is much that is inventive and engaging. At times, I felt I was watching a very long music clip. Ewan McGregor is imposing as Curt Wild. His exploration of the complexities of the outrageous performer is both engaging and energetically compelling. Jonathan Rhys Meyers has his moments, and shows off his pout to great advantage, but his character seems far from complete, and his relationships unconvincing. Toni Collette appears to be playing two or three different characters –all with different accents: from plum in the mouth British upper class to contrived American tones with an occasional Aussie vowel intonation thrown in. Essentially this story of two pop icons who set out to change the world but end up only changing themselves, is rich with visual flair, but frustrates overall through overindulgence and lack of dynamics in structure and form."
Louise Keller

"What a great idea, cinematically speaking, to set a movie within the garish world of glam rock, once the forbidden sanctity of David Bowie, alias Ziggy Stardust. It was a fascinating period in British popular culture, one deserving a fascinating movie. With Velvet Goldmine, writer/director Todd Haynes seems to have missed out on making a groundbreaking film. Certainly, there's much to admire: its visual excesses suit the film's tone and tempo, and it is a masterful film to the eye. On a purely cinematic level, the movie is nothing short of extraordinary, a razzle dazzle collage of hypnotic images, strung together by a script that doesn't quite match the imagery. Haynes' film has the appearance of depth and intellect, but it's really not as intellectual a work as he thinks it is. Structurally, it's an annoying piece, drifting back and forth, trying to do a rock version of Citizen Kane, with little success. This is a flamboyant film, and like the period it explores, is incessantly self-indulgent. Performances range from compelling (Ewan McGregor), to interesting (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), to patchy (Toni Collette), to dull (Christian Bale). Sets and costumes are appropriately outlandish, and the film has its intoxicating moments. But it's essentially a hollow film, one that gives us an interesting overview of the period, but little insight. It tries to be clever but rarely succeeds."
Paul Fischer

"Hardly the sole recent release to be obsessed with those legendary excesses of 'the seventies,' Velvet Goldmine is streets ahead of any of its snide competitors (e.g. Boogie Nights). For one thing Haynes actually takes pop culture seriously – though to posit glam rock as a crucial, utopian moment in world history of course now seems like a camp joke. But then glam, or at least this film's version of it, was always founded on camp, on tawdry decadence and 'assuming a pose' – on being frivolous and deadly serious at the same time. Earnestly working to educate its audience, the film spends much of its first hour delving into glam's complex historical sources, from the aestheticism of Oscar Wilde through music-hall and pantomime to the mods of the early sixties, described as 'the first true dandies of pop.' Yet Haynes is as much a fan as a scholar. While Velvet Goldmine painstakingly recreates and analyses a cultural movement, it simultaneously (and brilliantly) transmutes the whole of glam into the raw material of a private, swooning fantasy. As the renamed and otherwise fictionalised portraits of rock stars suggest, the film takes place, quite literally, in a science-fiction parallel universe; it depicts a through-the-looking-glass 'glam era' that's not quite the one we know. In keeping with Haynes' blend of conceptual clarity and crazed romanticism, the lush, decentred storytelling offers both a tightly controlled pastiche of early-seventies film style and an instant trip: heaps of zooms, alternating bursts of theatrical fantasy and unfocused bustle, a dense jumble of dreams and newsreels, memories and myths, relying on the music to hold it all together. This film could really matter for a lot of people (unlike most movies). It's easily among the best of the year."
Jake Wilson

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed:
2
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SOFCOM MOVIE TIMES

VELVET GOLDMINE (M15+)
(UK)

CAST: Ewan McGregor, Toni Collette, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Christian Bale

DIRECTOR: Todd Haynes

PRODUCER: Christine Vachon

SCRIPT: Todd Haynes

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Maryse Alberti

EDITOR: James Lyons

MUSIC: Carter Burwell

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Christopher Hobbs

RUNNING TIME: 123 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Globe

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 5, 1998

VIDEO RELEASE: April 21, 1999
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar







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