With the latest (and last) installment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, The Dark Knight Returns, coming out this week, I think back to my first introduction to its star Christian Bale, as gay music journalist Arthur Stuart who researches MIA glam star Brian Slade in Velvet Goldmine. While Bale is far from the most interesting part of the movie, it’s safe to say we won’t be seeing him in these kinds of roles any time soon. It’s fun to remember a world where future Obi-Wan Kenobi and future Batman can share a special night together. While Star Wars appears to have been a momentary detour for McGregor, Bale seems to like bigger films, as long as they are of above average quality.
Arthur Stuart came of age and came to terms with his homosexuality during the era of glam rock, when stars like Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and Curt Wild (Ewen McGregor) could openly experiment with bisexuality. Stuart moves to New York City to pursue journalism and most likely escape his homephobic roots. Stuart gets assigned to write a “Where Are They Now?” piece about Brian Slade, who faked his own murder on stage ten years before, and disappeared amidst the scandal. Stuart tracks down Slade’s original manager and his ex-wife Mandy (Toni Collette) who discuss how Slade became the legend the world knew and how rocker Curt Wild both inspired him to become the glam rock king and destroyed him as he began a downward spiral when their affair ended. As Stuart continues to dig, Slade and Wild remain elusive, until Stuart connects the dots and realizes Slade has been hiding in plain sight. He also runs into a past his prime Wild who seems to have forgotten the one night stand he had with Stuart ten years ago after a show.
Slade is obviously David Bowie. The script borrowed heavily from two Bowie biographies but Bowie refused to allow his name or songs be used in the film (not too surprising, it’s not a very flattering portrayal) , so the writers got creative and got Brian Eno to pen some new tunes and Brian Slade came to be. However, while Curt Wild is all Iggy Pop on the outside, he is really a mix of a couple of Bowie collaborators including Lou Reed and Mick Jagger who were rumored to being more than musical partners if you catch my drift.
While Velvet Goldmine is very style over substance I’d still recommend it to any music fan. It’s a great look into the world of glam rock and interesting performances by McGregor, Collette, & Meyers.