Velvet Goldmine


A gold flying saucer hovers down to Earth through thick, grey clouds and settles above 19th-century Dublin. It beams a baby on to someone's front doorstep, and the child is revealed to be Oscar Wilde. Meanwhile, a voice-over tells the audience about the "ruined cities of ancient history". Or something vaguely like that. Confused yet? If the answer is "no", then you'll probably love Velvet Goldmine. And good luck if you do -you'll be one of the lonely few.

American writer/director Haynes (Safe) tries a Citizen Kane-style approach to explore the lives of Ziggy Stardust-a-like Slade and his party-loving retinue, while celebrating the entire, heavily-spangled Glam scene. But he doesn't delve deep enough, or try hard enough. His abortive attempt merely churns out some shoddy symbolism (hence `the UFO) and cold, cardboard characters stumbling their way through a set of unconvincing relationships.

Stale dialogue is punctuated by irritating adolescent musings on how hard it is to be `different' and Haynes props up his intelligence-insulting plot (Slade's fate is obvious to all but Bale's oafish reporter within the first half-hour) via an ill-conceived vision of British '70s Glam that, at times, looks more like '80s New Romanticism.

And don't look to McGregor (as smack-addled rocker Curt Wild) for any consolation. His few, brief `flashes' of talent are outshone by the glare of the sequins which adorn almost every piece of clothing on show. Perhaps that's the point; this is about glamour, after all. Maybe it's supposed to be pretentious, meaningless, shallow, irritating and confusing - a triumph of style over substance. But never forget: a turd is still a turd, no matter how much glitter you sprinkle on it.


This offensive, sub-Stardust mess is a rock opera with all the vocal power of a mewling kitten. It lacks plot, interesting characters, coherence, warmth and even gets its vision of the Glam scene sadly wrong. Velvet Goldmine is to cinema what David Bowie is to acting.

Film Details

  • 18
  • UK Theatrical Release Date: October 23rd 1998
  • Genre

User Reviews

    • FBEXanthopoul

      Jan 21st 2012, 16:52

      4, by Georgia Xanthopoulou To be played at maximum volume. In 1984, a journalist tries to discover what has happened to 70s glam rock singer, Brian Slade, who disappeared after faking his own murder on stage. As he goes around interviewing people who knew the star, the journalist relives the era of glam rock, which, the viewer finds out, has changed his life as much as it has changed the lives of the people he’s interviewing. This film, whose plot is structurally based on Citizen Kane, is essentially an hymn to the freedom, the extravagance and complete sexual liberation of the glam rock era and, at the same time, criticised the barren era, in terms of art and politics, that followed it, as the 1980s set in. While the focus of the film seems to be on the question of ‘whatever happened to Brian Slade?’, as the film progresses, it is revealed that the plot is merely the excuse for the director to tell the story of this musical and fashion movement which exploded during the early ‘70s in the same way that the music, costumes and the video clip style editing explodes on the screen during this film. The characters all borrow elements from different real life rockstars, such as David Bowie, Lou Reed, Bryan Ferry and Iggy Pop in a way which points to the fact that this is not a historical account of events. It’s an attempt to share the experience of these exciting, daring and loud times, mostly as experienced by the fans of glam rock. Todd Haynes delivers a structurally complex, visually stunning and stylistically bold tribute to a musical genre which inspires everyone to experience freedom. ‘The freedom you can allow yourself’. The film stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Toni Collette, Ewan Mc Gregor, Christian Bale and Eddie Izzard. Georgia Xanthopoulou at

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