CANNES--There's nothing safe about Todd Haynes' ambitious, sensual and
nostalgic musical romance "Velvet Goldmine," which divided critics at Cannes but
won the filmmaker a special prize from the jury for best artistic contribution.
An upcoming Miramax release, "Goldmine" may not live up to its name at the
boxoffice, but Haynes' sumptuously glamorous style, a glittery cast and super
soundtrack will lure hip crowds in major markets and ensure a strong
Set in the sex-and-drugs London music scene of the 1970s, evoking Davie
Bowie, Brian Eno and other glam rockers, "Goldmine" is the story of fictional
Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Myers), who fakes an on-stage shooting at the height
of his career and disappears from sight when the hoax is revealed and his fans
turn against him.
Ten years later, former fan and journalist Arthur Stuart (Christian Bale)
goes searching for Slade. In the process, he revisits his idol's rise and fall
through interviews with Slade's former lover, influential American star Curt
wild (Ewan McGregor), and former wife, Mandy (Toni Collette).
Haynes freely admits that "Citizen Kane" is the inspiration for the film's
complex structure and occasional razzle-dazzle sequences. Indeed, Orson Welles'
1941 masterpiece is visually referenced in several scenes and individual shots,
but there's one giant difference between the two challenging films from vastly
Welles effortlessly draws one into the still-relevant, decades-spannng
mystery of a wealthy tycoon and makes one care about the diverse cast of
characters, while Haynes finds little resonance beyond gloomy reflections about
the dangers of too much freedom. In the most important aspect of a work of art
that wants to elucidate and entertain--keeping one's attention from straying
when the bisexual, drug-taking leads are colorful but a little distant--Haynes
is only moderately successful.
While the grand design of the film will not work for all viewers, there are
too many standout moments to call the work a disappointment. After the brilliant
"Safe," Haynes can be forgiven trying to push the envelope of narrative
filmmaking on a slightly bigger scale, and he often succeeds.
Rhys Myers and McGregor blaze across the screen with great fury in fabulous
makeup and costumes, while Collette is a crucial presence in the two-hour film's
winding second half. These three, along with Bale to a lesser degree, transform
from bright creatures of the night to fallen angels, with an ironic twist at the
end that underscores the eerily totalitarian "present day" setting in 1984.
The film's visual riffs are seductive, with robust cinematography by Maryse
Alberti and splashy production design by Christopher Hobbs. The many songs on
the soundtrack, including several penned by Roxy Music's Bryan [Ferry], Anthony
Langdon, Steve Hewitt and Donna Matthews threaten to turn the movie into one
long music video, but Haynes knows how to explore the soul of his characters as
well as their revolutionary exteriors.
VELVET GOLDMINE SITE