Conspicuous by his absence from the soundtrack, Bowie as beautiful, androgynous space freak is all over Velvet Goldmine. Quite a few people, Bowie included, cattily dismissed the movie as a gay glam fan’s total wish fulfillment fantasy, essentially saying it was just an extended music video that took glam rock as no more or less than a gateway to gay liberation, to buggering who you want to bugger (or have bugger you). To me, though, the movie is a cool curio for precisely that reason. Filmed by lesser hands, and as perceived by lesser minds, Velvet Goldmine has all the potential to be simply a cock-shy piece of trash, toothlessly rendering the glam-swooning London of ’72/’73 as a bright conglomeration of talented and imaginative blokes on the make. Perhaps someone could surprise me and make a good movie of that. Velvet Goldmine, however, is an aficionado’s fond, feather-light look back at an era the director wasn’t around for, mashing the sounds and styles through his own filter of appreciation, and giving it lots of sex and sex appeal in the process. The movie has no choice but to skirt around Bowie’s bio (as opposed to tackling it head-on), and this frees the movie to go deeper into its own fantasia. (Part of the film’s fun is the way it reinvents the Ziggy Stardust phenom at will, from a Citizen Kane-like perspective.) And hey, Bowie and the Spiders From Mars may have been the apotheosis of the genre, but there was a helluva lot of great glam rock that other people were making then, too, and I salute any film that gives them ample shoulder room.
Of special merit: Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Hot damn.