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.