Cinemalphabet: V is for Velvet Goldmine
Bat(E)man, Obi-Wan, A Definite Article, Muriel and Henry VIII all walk into a bar…
Maybe the delectable Jonathan Rhys-Meyers never believed he’d be a big, big star, but I’ve always known – oddly enough I’m far too cowardly to actually watch The Tudors, though I hear he’s quite fantastic – he would storm the states and rock the house. I went to see Velvet Goldmine because it was what all my friends were doing and also I was trying to avoid another night of dancing on the go-go box to some really bad uninspired 70s “Fox on the Run” style glam rock.
Whenever I recommend this eye and ear candy to folks I often do so without any commentary, except to say: “Oh my god, who asks questions about a movie where Ewan McGregor goes full frontal (again). What the hell is wrong with you. Oh yeah, it’s got Muriel from that wedding movie, Christian Bale doing some awful British accent. Damn, I hate when Americans try talk British. It’s totally cheesy… Oh, he’s Welsh. I see then. Well he sounds like Eliza Doolittle1.”
There are three problems with telling people the “story”:
- It kind of makes Christian Bale’s character – Arthur Stewart – seem rather idiotic.
- It deprives the viewer of framing the film from their own perspective.
- It might make you not like Bowie much (it did for me, for like two hours, then I got over it.)
One of things I will say is hats off to Velvet Goldmine director Todd Haynes who had me at a little film released in 1995 called Safe. Now, I am not one who likes artsy films for the sake of doing so, as my tastes tend to skew far more popcorny, but Safe is really an awesome movie.
In Safe’s most iconic scene, Julianne Moore coughed herself from what appeared to be Sherman Oaks all the way to her home in Northridge! Having coughed that route myself once or twice in my life, I found the whole scene quite chilling. Every time I coughed after having seen that film, I worried I would be unable to stop until I relocated to a community where people don’t really shower, clean with vinegar, are afraid of deodorant and eat bland foods.
Damn, I wish spring would come to Vermont! I’m about tired of all this cold and winter residue.
Velvet Goldmine has fantastic music, gorgeous costuming and for some odd reason Eddie Izzard in an dizzying array of Austin Powers looking suits. How cruel to have a movie all about glitter, glamour and deprive his character of both! Christian Bale spends much of the movie running around looking Harrison Ford confused, which was par for the course at that point in his career. I see you, Metroland. Ewan is always a bit bonks in this era of his career and wouldn’t really settle down until he started wearing drapey fabrics and started talking like Sir Alec Guinness. The most inspired acting – and I should be clear, everyone is terrific in this film – comes from Toni “Muriel” Collette2 who had me LOLing with her American girl moves to London and affects a British accent thing, which is pitch perfect. Ms. Collette (who is Australian), like Bale and Blanchett are masters at not only accents, but convincing dialects as well. I don’t think I’ve ever heard either Bale or Collette do the same dialect twice. I don’t even think Bale sounds the same from Batman Begins to Dark Knight.
My favorite songs from the film:
- The Whole Shebang
- Ballad of Maxwell Demon
- Virginia Plain
- The Hot One
There are some clunkers. Namely, Ladytron – a song I have never liked no matter who happens to be singing it – and 20th Century Boy, which is often covered and rarely improved. Every cover of 20th Century Boy sounds like The Wallflowers making Bowie’s Heroes into a more boring song that I believed was possible.
But in the end, Velvet Goldmine’s a big, wonderful glittery mess of a film and that is not a bad thing at all.
1 when promoting films Bale nearly always uses some flat nondescript mid American accent because of insipid views like the one I expressed at that point in my life. We aren’t ready for that jelly, it seems. Though I’m pretty sure he used his real voice to accept an MTV award for Batman, thus causing everyone to throw tomatoes at him. Or maybe I’m just confusing him with someone else.
2 if I don’t say Muriel La Mommie won’t know which Aussie I’m referring to.