Saturday, 17 October 2009
The world is changed because you are made of ivory and gold. The curves of your lips rewrite history.
-Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Velvet Goldmine, directed by Todd Haynes, ranks as one of my favourite films. It's always nice to write about a film you adore. It's an adaptation of multiple things: of real people (David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Oscar Wilde), real historical contexts (the late nineteenth century and the late 1970s) and real literature (The Picture of Dorian Gray, a multitude of Wilde plays). I can't help feeling that despite all its glitter and glam, it's primarily a film about trauma: the trauma of forging an identity, the trauma of love and the trauma of history.
It's a convoluted film which doesn't follow a linear storyline and this perhaps signals its questioning of linear history. It shamelessly flaunts the idea that gender, like history, is a performance. Much attention is given to the stage as a site of historical analysis and identity construction. I always feel for the characters in this film, even the unlovable ones. I feel that history is like a dead weight upon their shoulders. And I do just want to give Christian Bale's character a hug and smudge his lipstick. I'm making this sound like a rather sad little film aren't I? It isn't, it's quite fun and energetic too. Just be prepared to think behind the glitter and makeup. And be prepared to encounter history in a distorted light. Somewhere in the midst of this inherited history is also a deeply personal story of illicit love. But I won't ruin it for those who haven't seen it.