Glam-Rock Movie Debuts in Cannes

Christopher Burns


CANNES, France (AP) - The much-anticipated '70s glam-rock movie "Velvet Goldmine," screened Friday at Cannes, lacks the punch of "Trainspotting," last year's trendy British film.

But despite a plot that seems to flounder midway through, director Todd Haynes succeeds in using the sex, drugs and glitter-laced genre to examine the youthful search for personal and gender identity.

In many ways the film, a story loosely based on David Bowie and Iggy Pop, has hit potential. British screen heartthrobs Ewan McGregor of "Trainspotting" and Jonathan Rhys Meyers play the fictitious glitter-clad rock stars Brian Slade and Curt Wild.

REM's lead singer Michael Stipe, as executive producer, advised the American Haynes and helped secure financing for the British-made film. The soundtrack packs in Gary Glitter, T-Rex, Brian Eno, Roxy Music, Lou Reed, Pulp and Teenage Fanclub.

"Glam rock is an era that has largely been overlooked, but for musicians has a great deal of impact and inspiration," Stipe says.

But what about the plot?

There's a power-packed first half, depicting London's 1970s Zeitgeist. Flashbacks and flash-forwards whirl the viewer from Slade's oppressed youth to his fall from stardom after his fake assassination during a 1974 concert, aimed at boosting sales.

In an Orwellian 1984, British reporter Arthur Stuart (Christian Bale) is assigned a story on the anniversary and embarks a journey into Slade's - and his own - past.

Stuart's conversations with Slade's wife depict a troubled love story in a milieu where bisexuality was de rigueur, and where glam rock was dying a slow death.

Haynes says he was seeking a realistic view of the time.

"A lot of '70s revivalism ... focused on the most disposable, silly, goofy, bubble-gum aspects of '70s culture - Brady Bunch, disco, stuff like that," he says.

With the androgynous, sexually ambiguous movement, "there was this naive, perhaps, but optimistic, integrationist spirit ... that we could all learn from the other side.

"That to me is the most radical aspect of it, and the way that it filtered down to teenagers that Ch-ch-ch-changes was normal," he said, with help from a Bowie tune.