Velvet Goldmine

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For the song, see Velvet Goldmine (song).
"Maxwell Demon" redirects here. For the thought experiment, see Maxwell's demon.
Velvet Goldmine
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Todd Haynes
Produced by Christine Vachon
Michael Stipe
Bob Weinstein
Harvey Weinstein
Written by Todd Haynes
James K. Lyons
Starring Ewan McGregor
Christian Bale
Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Narrated by Janet McTeer
Music by Carter Burwell
Cinematography Maryse Alberti
Edited by James Lyons
Distributed by CiBy Sales (worldwide)
Miramax Films
Release dates
  • 6 November 1998 (1998-11-06)
Running time
124 minutes
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget $9 million
Box office $1,053,788

Velvet Goldmine (1998) is a British drama film directed and co-written by Todd Haynes set in Britain during the glam rock days of the early 1970s; it tells the story of the fictional pop star Brian Slade. Sandy Powell received a BAFTA Award for Best Costume Design and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Costume Design. The film utilizes a non-linear structure to interweave the vignettes of the various characters.


Set in a dystopian, grey version of 1984, gay British journalist Arthur Stuart (Christian Bale) is writing an article about the withdrawal from public life of 1970's bisexual glam rock star Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), and is interviewing those who had a part in the entertainer's career. As each person recalls their thoughts, it becomes the introduction of the vignette for that particular segment in Slade's personal and professional life.

Part of the story involves Stuart's family's reaction to his sexuality, and how the gay and bisexual glam rock stars and music scene gave him the strength to come out. Rock shows, fashion, and rock journalism all play a role in showing the youth culture of 1970s Britain, as well as the gay culture of the time.

Near the beginning of his career Slade is married to Mandy (Toni Collette). But when he comes to the U.S. he seeks out the gay American rock star Curt Wild (Ewan McGregor) and they become involved in each other's lives on a personal and creative level.

The vignettes show both Wild and Slade becoming increasingly difficult to work with as they become more famous. Wild and Slade, and other main characters, suffer breakdowns in both their personal and professional relationships. Eventually Slade's career ends following the critical and fan backlash from his on-stage publicity stunt where he faked his own murder.

As he gets closer to the truth of where Brian Slade is now, Stuart is told by his publisher that the story is no longer of public interest, and Stuart has now been assigned to the Tommy Stone tour. But Stuart is obsessed and continues searching out Slade. We discover that Stuart was also at the concert where Slade faked his own death, and that after seeing Wild perform, Wild and Stuart had a sexual encounter.

Eventually, Stuart discovers the true identity and whereabouts of Brian Slade, and once again encounters Wild as several mysteries are resolved.



The film centers on Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a bisexual glam rock icon patterned after David Bowie and, to a lesser extent, Marc Bolan. David Bowie initially disapproved of the film and its many similarities with his life story, and threatened to sue, resulting in substantial rewrites to create more distance between the character and the real man.[1] Ewan McGregor co-stars in the role of Curt Wild, a genre-defying performer who doesn't back down from sex, nudity, or drugs on or off stage, and whose biographical details are based on Iggy Pop (who grew up in a trailer park)[2] and Lou Reed (whose parents sent him to electroshock therapy to 'cure' his homosexual feelings).[3] Also featured are Christian Bale as the young glam rock fan and reporter, Arthur Stuart; Toni Collette as Slade's wife, Mandy; Eddie Izzard as his manager, Jerry Devine; and Luke Morgan Oliver as a young Oscar Wilde.

The tale strongly parallels Bowie's relationships with Reed and Pop in the 1970s and 1980s. Brian Slade's gradually overwhelming on-stage persona of "Maxwell Demon" and his backing band, "Venus in Furs", likewise bear a resemblance to Bowie's persona and backing band. The album, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, tells a similar story of a rock star gone over the edge, and culminates in his assassination. As with Slade and Wild, Bowie produced records for, and with, both Iggy Pop and Lou Reed. The band name "Venus in Furs" is taken from a song by Lou Reed's early band, The Velvet Underground, which itself was taken from Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's novel by the same name, which appeared on their first album. Maxwell Demon was the name of an early band of Brian Eno, a long-time Bowie associate, whose music is heard at various points in the film.

Haynes has said that the story is also about the love affair between America and Britain, New York and London, in the way each music scene feeds off and influences each other.[4] Little Richard is shown as an early influence on Brian Slade. In real life Little Richard inspired the Beatles and Bowie, who in turn inspired many bands to come after. Little Richard has also been cited by Haynes as the inspiration for Jack Fairy.[4]

The film is strongly influenced by the ideas and life of Oscar Wilde (seen in the film as a progenitor of glam rock), and refers to events in his life and quotes his work on dozens of occasions. The work of Jean Genet (the subject of Haynes' previous film, Poison) is referred to in imagery and also quoted in dialogue.

The narrative structure of the film is modeled on that of Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, in that reporter Stuart tries to solve a mystery about Slade, traveling around to interview Slade's lovers and colleagues, whose recollections are shown in 1950s, 1960s and 1970s flashback sequences.[5]


Velvet Goldmine received mixed reviews from critics. Janet Maslin, having seen the film at the New York Film Festival, made it a "NYT Critics' Pick," calling it "dazzlingly surreal" rock version of "Citizen Kane with an extraterrestrial Rosebud" and saying it "brilliantly reimagines the glam rock 70's as a brave new world of electrifying theatricality and sexual possibility, to the point where identifying precise figures in this neo-psychedelic landscape is almost beside the point. Velvet Goldmine tells a story the way operas do: blazing with exquisite yet abstract passions, and with quite a lot to look at on the side."[6] According to Peter Travers, "Haynes creates Velvet Goldmine..."with a masturbatory fervor that demands dead-on details" and "fashions a structure out of Citizen Kane"; it's a film that "works best as a feast of sight and sound, an era as a gorgeous carnal dream,...celebrat[ing] the art of the possible."[7] In a less enthusiastic review, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film two out of four stars and found its plot too discursive and confusingly assorted because of how it "bogs down in the apparatus of the search for Slade" by clumsily using scenes from Citizen Kane.[8] David Sterritt from The Christian Science Monitor wrote “The music and camera work are dazzling, and the story has solid sociological insights into a fascinating pop-culture period.”[1]

The film wasn't successful at the box office, making just $1.5m on a budget of $9m.[citation needed] It currently holds a 56% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 41 reviews.

In a retrospective review, Slant Magazine's Jeremiah Kipp gave Velvet Goldmine four out of four stars and said that, although unsupportive critics may be "terrified of a movie with so many ideas", the film successfully shows a "melancholic ode to freedom, and those who fight for it through art", because of Haynes' detailed imagery and the cast's "expressive, soulful performances".[9] Scott Tobias of The A.V. Club felt that Haynes' appropriation of structural elements from Citizen Kane is the film's "masterstroke", as it helps "evoke the glam rock movement without destroying the all-important mystique that sustains it." Tobias argued that, like Haynes' Bob Dylan-inspired 2007 film I'm Not There, Velvet Goldmine deals with a famously enigmatic figure indirectly through allusion and imagery, and consequently succeeds more than a simpler biopic could.[10]

Home video[edit]

Since its 1999 DVD release the film has become a cult classic[11] and "has found an obsessive following among younger audiences."[12] Haynes said in a 2007 interview, "A film that had the hardest time, at least initially, was Velvet Goldmine, and it's the film that seems to mean the most to a lot of teenagers and young people, who are just obsessed with that movie. They're exactly who I was thinking about when I made Velvet Goldmine, but it just didn't get to them the first time around."[13] The Blu-ray disc version of the film was released in Region A on 13 December 2011, and includes a newly recorded commentary track by director Todd Haynes and producer Christine Vachon. In it Haynes thanks the fansites for helping him compile the notes for the commentary.[14]

Awards and nominations[edit]

  • 1998 Cannes Film Festival - Best Artistic Contribution - Todd Haynes; nominated for Golden Palm[15]
  • 1999 Academy Awards - nominated for Best Costume Design (Sandy Powell)
  • 1999 BAFTA Awards - Best Costume Design - Sandy Powell; nominated for Best Make Up/Hair (Peter King)[16]
  • 1999 Independent Spirit Awards - Best Cinematography - Maryse Alberti; nominated for Best Director (Todd Haynes) and Best Feature
  • 1998 Edinburgh International Film Festival - Channel 4 Director's Award - Todd Haynes
  • 1999 GLAAD Media Awards - Outstanding Film (Limited Release)
  • 1999 MOVIELINE Young Hollywood Award - Best Song in a Motion Picture - Hot One - Nathan Larson


Velvet Goldmine
Velvet goldmine soundtrack.jpg
Soundtrack album by various artists
Released 3 November 1998
Genre Glam rock, soundtrack
Length 1:12:09
Label Fontana Records London
Producer Randall Poster, Todd Haynes, Michael Stipe

Although the character of Brian Slade is heavily based on David Bowie, Bowie himself disliked the script[17] and vetoed the proposal that his songs appear in the film.[18] However, as producer of Lou Reed's 1972 Transformer album, his backing vocals (mainly consisting of "bum-bum-bum"s and "ooh-ooh"s) can be heard on "Satellite of Love".

The finished soundtrack includes songs by glam rock and glam-influenced bands, past and present.

The English musicians who played under the name The Venus in Furs on the soundtrack were Radiohead's Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, David Gray, Suede's Bernard Butler, and Roxy Music's Andy Mackay. The American musicians who played as Curt Wild's Wylde Ratttz on the soundtrack were The Stooges' Ron Asheton, Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and Steve Shelley, Minutemen's Mike Watt, Gumball's Don Fleming, and Mark Arm of Mudhoney.

The soundtrack features new songs written for the film by Pulp, Shudder to Think and Grant Lee Buffalo,[19] as well as many early glam rock compositions, both covers and original versions. The Venus in Furs covers several Roxy Music songs with Thom Yorke channeling Bryan Ferry on vocals,[19] Placebo covers T. Rex's "20th Century Boy," Wylde Ratttz and Ewan McGregor cover The Stooges' "T.V. Eye" and "Gimme Danger", and Teenage Fanclub and Donna Matthews cover the New York Dolls' "Personality Crisis." Lou Reed, Brian Eno, T. Rex, and Steve Harley songs from the period are also included. The album is rounded out by a piece of Carter Burwell's film score.

All three members of the band Placebo also appeared in the film, with Brian Molko and Steve Hewitt playing members of the Flaming Creatures (Malcolm and Billy respectively) and Stefan Olsdal playing Polly Small's bassist.

Track listing[edit]

  1. Brian Eno: "Needle in the Camel's Eye" (Brian Eno, Phil Manzanera) – 3:09
  2. Shudder to Think: "Hot One" (Nathan Larson, Shudder to Think) (Based on a lot of David Bowie's glam work, mostly "Time") - 3:04
  3. Placebo: "20th Century Boy" (T. Rex cover) (Marc Bolan) – 3:42
  4. The Venus in Furs (vocals by Thom Yorke): "2HB" (Roxy Music cover) (Bryan Ferry) – 5:39
  5. Wylde Rattz (vocals by Ewan McGregor): "T.V. Eye" (The Stooges cover) (Dave Alexander, Scott Asheton, Ron Asheton, James Osterberg, Jr.) – 5:24
  6. Shudder to Think: "Ballad of Maxwell Demon" (Based on David Bowie's "All the Young Dudes" and Brian Eno's band Maxwell Demon) (Craig Wedren, Shudder to Think) – 4:47
  7. Grant Lee Buffalo: "The Whole Shebang" (Based on the unreleased David Bowie song "Velvet Goldmine") (Grant-Lee Phillips) – 4:11
  8. The Venus in Furs (vocals by Thom Yorke): "Ladytron" (Roxy Music cover) (Ferry) – 4:26
  9. Pulp: "We Are the Boys" (Cocker, Banks, Doyle, Steve Mackey, Webber) – 3:13
  10. Roxy Music: "Virginia Plain" (Ferry) – 3:00
  11. Teenage Fanclub & Donna Matthews: "Personality Crisis" (New York Dolls cover) (David Johansen, Johnny Thunders) – 3:49
  12. Lou Reed: "Satellite of Love" (Lou Reed) – 3:41
  13. T. Rex: "Diamond Meadows" (Bolan) – 2:00
  14. Paul Kimble & Andy Mackay: "Bitters End" (Ferry) – 2:13
  15. The Venus in Furs (vocals by Jonathan Rhys Meyers): "Baby's on Fire" (Brian Eno cover) (Eno) – 3:19
  16. The Venus in Furs (vocals by Thom Yorke): "Bitter-Sweet" (Roxy Music cover) (Andy Mackay, Ferry) – 4:55
  17. Carter Burwell: "Velvet Spacetime" (Carter Burwell) – 4:10
  18. The Venus in Furs (vocals by Jonathan Rhys Meyers): "Tumbling Down" (Cockney Rebel cover) (Steve Harley) – 3:28
  19. Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel: "Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)" (Harley) – 3:59

A more extensive selection of music was used for the movie soundtrack.

Film soundtrack listing[edit]

  1. "Needle in the Camel’s Eye" (Eno, Manzanera) - performed by Brian Eno
  2. "Hot One” (Larson, Shudder to Think) - performed by Shudder to Think
  3. “People Rockin' People” (Larson) - performed by Nathan Larson
  4. “Avenging Annie” (Andy Pratt) - performed by Andy Pratt
  5. “Coz I Love You” (Noddy Holder, Jim Lea) - performed by Slade
  6. “The Fat Lady of Limbourg” (Eno) - performed by Brian Eno
  7. "A Little of What You Fancy Does You Good” (Fred W. Leigh, George Arthurs) - performed by Lindsay Kemp
  8. Tutti Frutti” (Richard Penniman, Dorothy LaBostrie) - performed by The Venus in Furs, vocals by Callum Hamilton
  9. “Do You Wanna Touch Me? (Oh Yeah!)” (Gary Glitter, Mike Leander) - performed by Gary Glitter
  10. “Band of Gold” (Ronald Dunbar, Edythe Wayne) - performed by Freda Payne
  11. “2HB" (Ferry) - performed by The Venus in Furs, vocals by Thom Yorke
  12. “Sebastian” (Harley) - performed by The Venus in Furs, vocals by Jonathan Rhys Meyers
  13. "T.V. Eye” (Alexander, S. Asheton, R. Asheton, Osterberg, Jr.) - performed by Wylde Rattz, vocals by Ewan McGregor
  14. "Ballad of Maxwell Demon" (Wedren, Shudder to Think) - performed by Shudder to Think
  15. "The Whole Shebang" (Phillips) - performed by Grant Lee Buffalo
  16. "Symphony No. 6 in A Minor” (Gustav Mahler) - performed by Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
  17. "Get in the Groove” (James Timothy Shaw) - performed by The Mighty Hannibal
  18. “Ladytron” (Ferry) - performed by The Venus In Furs, vocals by Thom Yorke
  19. “We Are the Boys” (Cocker, Banks, Doyle, Mackey, Webber) - performed by Pulp
  20. “Cosmic Dancer (Bolan) - performed by T. Rex
  21. “Virginia Plain" (Ferry) - performed by Roxy Music
  22. “Personality Crisis” (Jahanson, Thunders) - performed by Teenage Fanclub & Donna Matthews
  23. "Satellite of Love” (Reed) - performed by Lou Reed
  24. "Diamond Meadows" (Bolan) - performed by T. Rex
  25. "Bitters End" (Ferry) - performed by Paul Kimble
  26. "Baby's on Fire" (Eno) - performed by The Venus in Furs, vocals by Jonathan Rhys Meyers
  27. “My Unclean” (R. Asheton, Mark Arm) - performed by Wylde Ratz, vocals by Ewan McGregor
  28. "Bitter-Sweet" (Mackay, Ferry) - performed by The Venus in Furs, vocals by Thom Yorke
  29. "20th Century Boy" (Bolan) - performed by Placebo
  30. "Dead Finks Don’t Talk" (Eno) -performed by Brian Eno
  31. "Gimme Danger" (Iggy Pop, James Williamson) - performed by The Venus Ii Furs, vocals by Ewan McGregor
  32. "Tumbling Down" (Harley) - performed by The Venus in Furs, vocals by Jonathan Rhys Meyers
  33. “2HB" (Ferry) - performed by The Venus in Furs, vocals by Paul Kimble
  34. "Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)" (Harley) - performed by Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel

Connections to other works[edit]


  1. ^ a b Alexander Ryll. "Essential Gay Themed Films To Watch, Velvet Goldmine". Gay Essential. Retrieved 7 February 2015. 
  2. ^ "Limping with the Stooges in Washington Heights" in The Brooklyn Rail
  3. ^ Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk (1996)
  4. ^ a b Moverman, Oren (1998) "Superstardust: Talking Glam with Todd Haynes", an interview in the introduction of Velvet Goldmine, A Screenplay by Todd Haynes, Hyperion: New York
  5. ^ Ashare, Matt (9 November 1998). "'Velvet Goldmine' stirs up the glam past". Boston Phoenix. 
  6. ^ Maslin, Janet (1 October 1998). "Glittering Ode to the Days of Ziggy Stardust". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-01-27. 
  7. ^ Travers, Peter (April 18, 2001). "Velvet Goldmine". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2012-01-27. 
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (6 November 1998). "Velvet Goldmine Movie Review & Film Summary (1998)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 9 August 2013. 
  9. ^ Kipp, Jeremiah (25 March 2004). "Velvet Goldmine". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 9 August 2013. 
  10. ^ Tobias, Scott (5 February 2009). "The New Cult Canon: Velvet Goldmine". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2012-01-27. 
  11. ^ "Glam’s Velvet Goldmine Marks End of McCarren’s Film Season" in "Encore New York"
  12. ^ Lim, Dennis (12 January 2012). "'Velvet Goldmine,' 'Mildred Pierce' capture director's interests". L.A. Times. 
  13. ^ "Todd Haynes Interview" in "A.V. Club"
  14. ^ "Todd Haynes talks Velvet Goldmine Blu-ray Release" in "Indiewire"
  15. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Velvet Goldmine". Retrieved 2009-10-02. 
  16. ^ Awards for Velvet Goldmine, IMDb.
  17. ^ "Making of Velvet Goldmine". DVD. 
  18. ^ Guthmann, Edward (6 November 1998). "The Glitter of Glam Rock Doesn't Look Like Much Fun". San Francisco Chronicle. pp. C–1. 
  19. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Velvet Goldmine: Review",
  20. ^ Velvet Goldmine: The Movie - The Ziggy Stardust Companion

Further reading[edit]

  • Padva, Gilad. Claiming Lost Gay Youth, Embracing Femininostalgia: Todd Haynes's Dottie Gets Spanked and Velvet Goldmine. In Padva, Gilad, Queer Nostalgia in Cinema and Pop Culture, pp. 72–97 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, ISBN 978-1-137-26633-0).

External links[edit]