When I was just obsessed with Velvet Goldmine

A film that had the hardest time, at least initially, was Velvet Goldmine, and it’s the film that seems to mean the most to a lot of teenagers and young people, who are just obsessed with that movie.
–Todd Haynes, director

When I was sixteen, I would watch Velvet Goldmine about once a month. It is the movie I have seen more times than any other, that I know as intimately as a piece of music. I watched it for the first time when I was catsitting for my sister, by myself. And it has always been a private obsession for me: it was ages before I got any of my friends to watch it, and it never hit any of them the same way.

But me, I went out and read Oscar Wilde, I borrowed my friend’s dad’s Roxy Music cds, I read vardathemessage every day. The intertextuality was a delight. (And really, you could consider it to be RPS with the serial numbers rather publicly scrubbed off.)

Todd Haynes understands being a fan. How you can be young and something can mean so intensely much to you. And the movie is, for me, all bound up in that particular time in my life, what I did and felt and who I loved. It is inseparable from who I was.

And everyone is gorgeous, everyone is clever and they conduct flytings in quotes and fall in love and betray each other and are heartbroken so beautifully.

Toni Collette is one of my favourite things in the movie. She plays Mandy with such dignity – and Mandy starts off as a rather ridiculous character, but in the end is not.

Brian Slade, who you might think was the heart of the movie, is not, and is ultimately hollow. (That’s unfair of me.) No, he never wanted anything more. And he got what he wanted.

A segment of the movie that I particularly love is his seduction of Mandy to ‘Ladytron’, a large part of which is not literal. I think of these as the ‘music video segments’, although which ones are actual music videos in the world of the film, and which ones are just expressions of emotion are up to debate. In ‘Ladytron’, Brian promises Mandy that he will hurt her, and she’ll love him anyway.

I do not really think Mandy is the one that is full of contradictions.

And I love too the scene where she and Kurt meet up at the Death of Glam concert. There is no blame between them; they have both been betrayed by the same man.

The movie is about the people Brian has hurt, the ones he’s cast aside, and that includes his fans. But still, for a time, they were all living their dreams. That doesn’t have to be lost. These things, these frivolous things like pop music and fandom, they matter.

I recently watched Velvet Goldmine again for the first time in years, and I was worried maybe it wouldn’t work for me any more. I needn’t have. I should really have worried about factoring in the time to watch it regularly again …

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