Color, 1998, 119 mins.

Directed by Todd Haynes

Starring Ewan McGregor, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Toni Collette, Christian Bale / Produced by Christine Vachon / Music by Carter Burwell / Cinematography by Maryse Alberti

Format: DVD - Miramax (MSRP $29.95)

Letterboxed (1.85:1) / Dolby Digital 5.1

The recent nostalgic burst of indie films geared around the 1970s (54, Last Days of Disco, etc.) has borne some pretty strange fruit, but none can compare with Velvet Goldmine, a mind-spinning dose of dizzy Ken Russell camp splashed across a nonlinear storyline best described as a pansexual Eddie and the Cruisers.

In 1984, ten years after the faked onstage assassination of Brit glam rock superstar Brian Slade (Rhys Meyers), reporter Christian Bale (a long way from Empire of the Sun) is assigned to do a retrospective on Slade's bizarre, short-lived career and subsequent disappearance. In classic Citizen Kane style, Bale tries to dig up the truth by interviewing people from Slade's past, particularly his ex-wife, Mandy (Muriel's Wedding's Collette, effortlessly sliding her accents to convey an American party girl trying to mold into the London mod scene). Mandy relates tales of Slade's scandalous bisexual antics, his Bowie-styled onstage excesses, and his doomed relationship with Curt Wild (McGregor), a snarling, borderline insane Iggy Pop figure. Meanwhile Bale comes to terms with his own hidden glamorous impulses as Haynes spins out one colorful setpiece after another, beginning with the opening sequence which posits that pop superstars are all descended from Oscar Wilde, an alien glam god whose magical glitter brooch is passed from one successor to another over the ages.

Not one of Miramax's more sedate recent offerings, Velvet Goldmine will best be appreciated by anyone who can remember or identify with the glam rock era. If you've ever grinned through Rocky Horror or Phantom of the Paradise, you'll get it. Style rules over substance, gloriously so, and the cast is more than up to the task. McGregor's ferocious rock god will startle anyone introduced to him through Star Wars (though it's nothing compared to McGregor's excesses in The Pillow Book), and Sandy Powell's amazing costumes never fail to please and startle the eye. Most importantly, as the opening suggests, this is a film to be "played at maximum volume," with a continuously active rock soundtrack ranging from pitch-perfect Bryan Ferry covers to original pseudo-glam ditties crooned by Shudder to Think. Considering the influence of executive producer Michael Stipe, this attention to musical detail shouldn't be surprising, but this is clearly Haynes' show. Even featuring a brief Ken doll homage to his controversial Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, Haynes' opus fuses his flamboyant visual style (love the "Satellite of Love" sequence) with sly historical nods to famous '70s figures. Clocking in at two hours, the film overstays its welcome by about fifteen minutes but is a pleasurable ride nonetheless for anyone willing to surrender their senses to a complete battering. The Miramax DVD is generally attractive if not outstanding; an anamorphic transfer would have been preferable, but this looks about as good as this low budget effort can in the U.S. for a while. The room-pounding Dolby Digital soundtrack is serviced more effectively, with the music's glorious vinyl-tinged qualities preserved even in the home video medium. Also includes the U.S. theatrical trailer.

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