He got Ewan McGregor to drop his trousers and Placebo to try out as T.Rex. But director TODD HAYNES reckons there was a
serious side to glam rock and, in Velvet Goldmine, he joins the children of the sexual revolution. Words: Alan Morrison
THERE'S STILL A SPECK OF GLITTER IN TODD Haynes' hair. a remnant of the Iidinburgh International Film l‘estival's opening party the night before. Velvet (Jolt/mine. his celebration of the pouts and the passions of the glam rock era. is still ringing in our ears when the American director settles down to afternoon tea in the posh surroundings of the (‘aledonian Hotel. ~This is irresistible.’ says the self— confessed Anglophile. eyeing up the scones and clotted cream.
It probably shouldn't come as a surprise that Haynes finds himself more at home here, pouring liarl (irey from a china pot, than in his home town of l.os Angeles. Ever the outsider, his previous films [Safe], Poison, Superstar 7— have cast a critical eye on what’s perceived as the American norm. Velvet Goldmine, however. concerns itself with a very British
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phenomenon. a time when rock guitar met art school and eyeliner.
‘Since it’s the first film to look back on that period. people want the definitive glam rock movie. and it won’t be that for anybody] Haynes admits. 'lt's a very personal. subjective dream into glam through rose- coloured glasses and distortions of memory. Some people are disappointed that the film takes a sort of heavier approach to glam rock and eshews the fun. pop. Slade. Sweet. Su/i Quatro. (iary (ilitter aspect. Some of that music is in the film. bill it isn’t really about that side of the spectrum.’
Instead. l’elvet Goldmine charts the rise and fall of Brian Slade (and his on-stage alter- ego. Maxwell Demon) through the eyes of a young Mancunian journalist. His where-are- they—now story takes him. in flashback. to his own sexual awakening courtesy of the gender- bending glam rock era.
"l‘hat’s maybe what is most radical about it: it’s not even the homosexuality. it's more precisely the bisexualin and the androgyny in the sense of blurring boundaries.~ says Haynes. ‘lt's easy to accept homosexuality from the safe heterosexual divide, but bisexuality implicates everybody, and you have to investigate yourself.’
In retrospect, it’s possible to note the radical influence that glam rock. had on rock star sexual identity —- there’s surely a line going from David Bowie’s dresses to Brian Molko’s lipstick girl-boy persona. Many of Velvet Goldmine’s characters have their real life counterparts -— yes, Brian Slade is
modelled on Bowie. while American singer (‘urt Wilde (a no-holds—barred liwan .VlcCiregor). bears more than a passing resemblance to Iggy Pop. But audiences shouldn’t dwell too long on these parallels.
‘lt gets in the way of letting the film take you somewhere new as a film. as a way of telling a story.~ Haynes insists. 'I think history is a fiction. It’s someone's very subjective choice about what to write down for posterity and what to leave out. To really get a sense of what happened in the past. you‘re always interpreting it. You’re most liberated when you take it as ﬁction to begin with. (ilam rock was this amazing project where they did that themselves. They really were blurring fact with fiction — who Bowie was. who Ziggy was, who Aladdin Sane was.”
Some viewers have even linked (‘urt Wilde and Kurt Cobain. "l‘hat‘s testiment to the