Back Seat Producers Season 07 Shows

BSP Episode 226: Velvet Goldmine

Part 3 of our 5 part Rock ‘n Roll series

Release date:  11/9/1998

Miramax Films

Directed by

  • Todd Haynes

Produced by

  • Christine Vachon
  • Michael Stipe
  • Bob Weinstein
  • Harvey Weinstein

Written by

  • Todd Haynes
  • James K. Lyons


Ewan McGregor

  • Curt Wild

Jonathan Rhys Meyers

  • Brian Slade

Christian Bale

  • Arthur Stuart

Toni Collette

  • Mandy Slade

Eddie Izzard

  • Jerry Devine


Initial comments by the hosts:

Darrell isn’t a big fan of “flash-back” story telling but he liked this movie and thought it offered a nice little history of glam rock.  Jill loved it, thought it had a lot of layers but didn’t see it as a historical piece.  She looked at it not to look back at history but to look forward to where we are now.  David thought he would hate it, but he really enjoyed it because it wasn’t about the music itself, it was about the human interaction.  Tony liked all the pieces of the movie but wasn’t blown away by it as a whole.  He thought that acting, the music and the visuals were great.  Jill, being a big David Bowie fan, said she constantly finds new references every time she goes back to watch this movie again.

The hosts get into an interesting discussion regarding whether culture today embraces the different musicians/styles/visuals the way that Britain did in the early 1970s, and specifically whether America did versus the way Britain adapted to that style.  They also agreed that the movie is more about Arthur’s (Christian Bale) character than either of the musicians.

Jill liked how the music was used to push the narrative along with abstract music video pieces, performance pieces and soundtrack pieces.  It was also impressive that both Ewan McGregor and Jonathan Rhys Meyers both sang for this movie.

Tony brought up that he found the story line very similar to Eddie & The Cruisers in that the lead character faked his death and a reporter tries to figure out what really happened, but the similarity pretty much ends there.  The story itself is more about the reporter trying to figure out who he is, his experiences, and how he related to that movement.

David appreciated that this movie tackled relationships not in a childish way, which he tends to see in music-themed movies, but in a more realistic way that shows relationships as “complicated, messy, and broken.”

It was agreed that all of the acting was outstanding, with extra kudos to Eddie Izzard for stealing every scene he was in.

David brought up the question of whether music played an integral part in your development as a person.  Jill emphatically said “yes” and followed it up by saying that this movie is an indictment of the United States in that the cultural references die away in this country, more so than others.  David stated that, which he has specific memories tied to some music, he doesn’t have any emotional connections to music.  Jill found that this movie resonated with her in that you can be an “alien” and find a world of other aliens/alienated people, through music.  David would have been perfectly fine if this movie had removed the soundtrack because the human narrative spoke more to him than the music did.

The parallel of podcasting is brought up, and both Tony and David talk about how podcasting (though not necessarily in the genre of movie reviews) is an essential part of their lives at this point.  The friendships that have been gained over the years through this shared forum are often closer and/or stronger than friendships gained through childhood.

It was brought up that there were a lot of critical complaints about this movie that there was no real completion to the story lines.  The hosts disagreed with those complaints; arguing that there were, in fact, completed story lines (What happened to Brian Slade?) and also arguing that there didn’t need to be a completion regarding Arthur Stuart’s character.  You don’t know what will happen next with him, you just know that he will move on, move forward, and he’ll be fine.

Jill asked about the similarities between this movie and last week’s movie, Almost Famous.  Tony correlated Russell Hammond and Stillwater to Curt Wild.  One is about being the musician that they want to be and the other is about striving to be an iconic figure/performer that the fans will adore.  Jeff Bebe (Jason Lee, Almost Famous) is the one who wants to be an icon, while Hammond just wants to play his music.

A few trivia bits and pieces:

Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Ewan McGregor sang their own songs, but a few of Rhys Meyers’ songs were overdubbed by Thom Yorke (Radiohead).

A great deal of the dialogue stems from the writings of Oscar Wilde.

The name of Brian Slade’s persona, “Maxwell Demon,” and his band, “The Venus In Furs”, are references to two of glam rock’s biggest artists: Maxwell Demon was the name of a band in which Brian Eno performed in England in the 1960s, and “Venus In Furs” is a Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground song.  Both artists are on this film’s soundtrack.

Curt Wild’s character is largely inspired by David Bowie’s relationships with Iggy Pop and Lou Reed.  Iggy Pop hailed from Michigan and, for a time, had long blond locks, while Reed was forced to undergo shock therapy for bisexuality as a teen and was also rumored to have had an affair with Bowie before their later falling out.

When Brian first sees Mandy, he asks “Do you jive?” This is what David Bowie reportedly said when he first saw his future first wife, Angela Bowie.

During the scene where we’re first introduced to Curt Wild’s character, during the Festival scene, Ewan McGregor was only supposed to moon the audience.  He had been so inspired by Iggy Pop that he improvised and dropped his pants to his ankles and began to jump around the stage.

Your Producers for this episode were:

  • Tony
  • Darrell
  • Jill
  • David

This episode was recorded: 4/11/2012

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