Velvet Goldmine

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Velvet Goldmine
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTodd Haynes
Screenplay byTodd Haynes
Story by
Produced by
CinematographyMaryse Alberti
Edited byJames Lyons
Music byCarter Burwell
Distributed by
Release dates
  • 22 May 1998 (1998-05-22) (Cannes)
  • 23 October 1998 (1998-10-23) (United Kingdom)
  • 6 November 1998 (1998-11-06) (United States)
Running time
123 minutes[1]
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • English
  • French
Budget$9 million[2]
Box office$4.3 million[2]

Velvet Goldmine is a 1998 musical drama film written and directed by Todd Haynes from a story by Haynes and James Lyons. It is set in Britain during the glam rock days of the early 1970s, and tells the story of fictional bisexual pop star Brian Slade, who faked his own death. The film was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival and won the award for the Best Artistic Contribution. Sandy Powell received a BAFTA Award for Best Costume Design and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Costume Design. The film utilizes non-linear storytelling to achieve exposition while interweaving the vignettes of its various characters.


In 1984, British journalist Arthur Stuart is writing an article about the withdrawal from public life of 1970s glam rock star Brian Slade following a death hoax ten years earlier, 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 homosexuality, 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. At the beginning of his career, Slade is married to Mandy. But when he comes to the United States, he seeks out American rock star Curt Wild, and they become involved in each other's lives.

The vignettes show Wild and Slade becoming increasingly difficult to work with as they become more famous. They suffer breakdowns in 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 Slade is now, Stuart is suddenly told by his editor that the story is no longer of public interest and Stuart has been assigned to the Tommy Stone tour, which coincidentally is Brian Slade's new identity. We discover Stuart was also at the concert where Slade faked his own death, and that after seeing Wild perform on another night, Wild and Stuart had a sexual encounter.

Eventually, Stuart confronts Tommy Stone and once again encounters Wild, who casually passes on a piece of jewellry from Oscar Wilde.



The film centers on Brian Slade, a bisexual and androgynous glam rock icon who was patterned after David Bowie, Bryan Ferry, Jobriath and Marc Bolan.[3] The Director, Todd Haynes, requested access to Bowie's song catalogue along with a personal blessing to make the film but Bowie refused, saying that he intended to make a similar film about the time.[3] 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) and Lou Reed (whose parents sent him to electroshock therapy to 'cure' his homosexual feelings).[4][5] Also featured are Christian Bale as the young glam rock fan and reporter, Arthur Stuart and Toni Collette as Slade's wife, Mandy, who is based on Bowie's first wife, Angela.[6] Eddie Izzard stars as Slade's manager, Jerry Devine.

The tale strongly parallels Bowie's relationships with Reed and Pop in the 1970s and 1980s. Brian Slade's gradually overwhelming stage persona of "Maxwell Demon" and his backing band, "Venus in Furs", resemble 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, Pop and Reed. The band name "Venus in Furs" is taken from a song by Lou Reed's early band, The Velvet Underground, which was taken from Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's eponymous novel, 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 City and London, in the way each music scene feeds off and influences each other.[7] Little Richard is shown as an early influence on Brian Slade. Little Richard inspired the Beatles and Bowie, who in turn inspired many other bands. Little Richard has also been cited by Haynes as the inspiration for Jack Fairy.[7]

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. Jean Genet (the subject of Haynes' previous film, Poison, and the putative inspiration for the title of Bowie's song "The Jean Genie") is referred to in imagery and also quoted in dialogue.

The film's narrative structure is modelled on that of Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, in that the reporter Stuart tries to solve a mystery about Slade, travelling to interview Slade's lovers and colleagues, whose recollections are shown in 1950s, 1960s and 1970s flashbacks.[8]

David Bowie was ambivalent about Velvet Goldmine upon release.[9] According to Bowie, “When I saw the film I thought the best thing about it was the gay scenes. They were the only successful part of the film, frankly."[9]


Velvet Goldmine
Soundtrack album by
various artists
Released3 November 1998
GenreGlam rock, soundtrack
LabelFontana Records London
ProducerRandall Poster, Todd Haynes, Michael Stipe

Although the character of Brian Slade is heavily based on David Bowie, Bowie vetoed the proposal that his songs appear in the film.[3] 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 Band's Clune, 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,[10] 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,[10] 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 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. Another member of the Flaming Creatures, Pearl, was played by Xavior (Paul Wilkinson), former lead singer of Romo band DexDexTer and later a keyboard player for Placebo and Rachel Stamp.

Track listing
  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 Ratttz (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 David Bowie's "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
  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 Ratttz, 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" (Johansen, 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 in 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


Box office[edit]

The film opened in the United Kingdom on 23 October 1998 and grossed over $700,000.[11] It was released in the United States on 6 November 1998 in 85 venues, grossing $301,787 in its opening weekend and ranking sixteenth at the box office, and fifth among the week's new releases.[12] It would ultimately gross $1,053,788 in the United States and Canada and $4,313,644 worldwide.[2]

Critical response[edit]

Velvet Goldmine received mixed to positive reviews from critics. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 60% rating based on 47 reviews, with an average of 6.5/10. The critical consensus reads: "Velvet Goldmine takes a visual and narrative approach befitting its larger-than-life subject, although it's still disappointingly less than the sum of its parts".[13] Metacritic reports a 65 out of 100 score based on 25 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[14]

Janet Maslin, having seen the film at the New York Film Festival, made it a "NYT Critics' Pick," calling it a "dazzlingly surreal" rock version of "Citizen Kane with an extraterrestrial Rosebud" and saying it "brilliantly reimagines the glam rock ‘70s 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."[15] 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."[16] 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.[17] 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."[18]

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".[19] 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.[20]

Home media[edit]

Since its 1999 DVD release, the film has become a cult classic[21] and has been described as having "an obsessive following among younger audiences."[22] 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."[23]

A Blu-ray was released in Region A on 13 December 2011, and includes a newly recorded commentary track by Haynes and Vachon. In it, Haynes thanks the fansites for helping him compile the notes for the commentary.[24]

The soundtrack to Velvet Goldmine was released on vinyl in 2019.[25]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Connections to other works[edit]


  1. ^ "Velvet Goldmine (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 22 June 1998. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "Velvet Goldmine (1998) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Fricke, David (26 November 1998). "Weird Scenes From the Velvet Goldmine". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 1 January 2022.
  4. ^ "Limping with the Stooges in Washington Heights" in The Brooklyn Rail
  5. ^ Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk (1996)
  6. ^ Richard Harrington, "Gone Glam Digging; `Velvet Goldmine' Unearths '70s Tale", The Washington Post, 6 November 1998  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  7. ^ 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
  8. ^ Ashare, Matt (9 November 1998). "'Velvet Goldmine' stirs up the glam past". Boston Phoenix. Archived from the original on 20 November 2000.
  9. ^ a b "David Bowie: the man who sold the world wide web". The Big Issue. 4 February 2020. Retrieved 1 January 2022.
  10. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Velvet Goldmine: Review",
  11. ^ "British biz at the box office". Variety. 14 December 1998. p. 72.
  12. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for November 6-8, 1998". Box Office Mojo. 9 November 1998. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  13. ^ "Velvet Goldmine (1998)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 18 May 2022.
  14. ^ "Velvet Goldmine Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  15. ^ Maslin, Janet (1 October 1998). "Glittering Ode to the Days of Ziggy Stardust". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
  16. ^ Travers, Peter (18 April 2001). "Velvet Goldmine". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 8 December 2021. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
  17. ^ Ebert, Roger (6 November 1998). "Velvet Goldmine Movie Review & Film Summary (1998)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
  18. ^ Alexander Ryll. "Essential Gay Themed Films To Watch, Velvet Goldmine". Gay Essential. Archived from the original on 7 February 2015. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  19. ^ Kipp, Jeremiah (25 March 2004). "Velvet Goldmine". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
  20. ^ Tobias, Scott (5 February 2009). "The New Cult Canon: Velvet Goldmine". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
  21. ^ "Glam's Velvet Gold". Encore Monthly. 1 August 2008. Archived from the original on 4 October 2011.
  22. ^ Lim, Dennis (12 January 2012). "'Velvet Goldmine,' 'Mildred Pierce' capture director's interests". L.A. Times.
  23. ^ Murray, Noel (20 November 2007). "Todd Haynes". The A.V. Club.
  24. ^ Gilchrist, Todd (16 December 2011). "Todd Haynes Thanks The Fans For Helping Him Remember The Details & Backstories Of 'Velvet Goldmine'". IndieWire. Archived from the original on 9 January 2012.
  25. ^ "Velvet Goldmine Original Soundtrack - MVD Entertainment Group B2B". Retrieved 9 May 2022.
  26. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Velvet Goldmine". Retrieved 2 October 2009.
  27. ^ "The 71st Academy Awards". Retrieved 13 October 2022.
  28. ^ "Film in 1999". Retrieved 13 October 2022.
  29. ^ ""Affliction" Tops Spirit Award Nominations; "Monster," "Art," and "Sex" Also Nab Numerous Nods". IndieWire. 8 January 1999. Retrieved 13 October 2022.
  30. ^ "GLAAD bows media noms". Variety. 19 January 1999. Retrieved 13 October 2022.
  31. ^ "Velvet Goldmine - The Movie".


External links[edit]