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A Monthly Culture Matrix For the Cosmopolitan Traveler

Velvet Goldmine

Streaming on Apple TV / Film & TV

Almost every reviewer will recommend you see Todd Haynes’s new—and first—documentary, The Velvet Underground. I will recommend that you also revisit his 1998 film, Velvet Goldmine, a musical drama about British glam-rock stars in the 1970s, making music in the wake of the Velvet Underground. It looks at the fall of a David Bowie–inspired singer named Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and the journalist (Christian Bale) tasked with figuring out what killed his career. He starts with the time Slade faked his own murder onstage while dressed as Icarus. The film’s timeline is fragmented—the journalist writes the article in 1984, but the story is mostly told through flashbacks—so chronology becomes muddled, which I imagine mimics the memory of a rock star. Extravagant musical sequences accompany a soundtrack that includes Brian Eno, Roxy Music, and Lou Reed, plus rock-glam-inspired songs written for the film. Slade’s competition and obsession, Curt Wild (Ewan McGregor), an Iggy Pop–inspired singer, sheds his pants and crowd-surfs naked. Slade and Wild, both in leather, perform Eno’s “Baby’s on Fire” under neon lights to a crowd that loses its mind. Haynes’s films are always analytic; this one is also very fun. —J.D.

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