Outfest LA celebrated the 20th anniversary of Killer Films with their most bisexual movie “Velvet Goldmine.” The film was screened at the Director’s Guild of America Headquarters with directors Todd Haynes (“Far From Heaven,” “I’m Not There”) and Christine Vachon in attendance.
Killer Films has produced many LGBT movies such as “Boys Don’t Cry,” “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” “Poison,” “Party Monster,” “Stonewall” and many others. Killer Films made “Velvet Goldmine,” in 1998 and the legendary Vachon has been pushing the envelope, making queer independent cinema for 20 years since.
The glittery glam rock film was the movie that Vachon picked to commemorate those 20 years. This modern classic centers on bisexual, Bowie-like rock star Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), who fakes his own death onstage, promptly disappearing from public life, and journalist Arthur (Christian Bale) who tries to track him down for a “where are they now” article 10 years later. I
Interviews with Slade’s ex-wife (Toni Collette), former manager (Eddie Izzard), and rival rocker Curt Wild (Ewan McGregor) bring out Arthur’s inner fanboy and send him down the rabbit hole looking for answers. The film is a deliciously star-studded feast of make-up, fashion, drugs, sex and rock’n’roll.
Vachon began the screening with, “Have fun and play it loud.” That was a reference to the scroll at the beginning of the film that says: “Although what you are about to see is a work of fiction, it should nevertheless be played at maximum volume,” which is also an allusion to David Bowie’s album, Ziggy Stardust, which contains the legend: “To be played at maximum volume.”
“Way too many people are telling me they saw this when they were 12 years old, it’s making me feel very old,” laughed Vachon.
She says that she picked “Velvet Goldmine” because it’s one of her personal favorites. Vachon said that her collaborative relationship with Haynes has lasted longer than most marriages, and this was the third of their many collaborations. “I see something new in it every time I watch it, and when I stumble across it on TV I watch it again.”
The story starts off with a flying saucer landing at the birthplace of Oscar Wilde. Bisexual musician Michael Stipe, talks about how the gender-bending world of glam rock is sweeping the world. The Curt Wild character (inspired by bisexual rocker Iggy Pop) says, “You can’t fake being gay. Most of these kids are not going to make it. They say everyone is bisexual. Being bisexual is not easy.”
Brian Slade is captivated by Wild’s on-stage gyrations as he sticks his hands down his pants and gyrates as if he’s masturbating on stage. During a press conference scene in the movie, Slade shocks the press by saying, “Everybody knows everyone is bisexual. I like boys as much as I like girls and so does my wife.”
When Wild and Slade get together in the film, things really take off, and they have onstage performances that almost look like sex acts. Slade’s wife calls them the “Tracy and Hepburn for the ’70s.”
After the screening, Vachon, Novack, and Haynes talked to the audience about the making of the film. They explained that it was the first time they were shooting in the UK, and the first time they had worked with such a high-profile cast.
“We felt a little stranded trying to figure out how to speak with the natives,” quipped Vachon.
“It was an extremely ambitious film for the budget and the actors needed to immerse themselves in the world,” Haynes recalled. “It was a party for them. Afterward, Christian (Bale, who was only 18 or 19 at the time) said that he had the sense it was a tough shoot but no one knew it at the time.”
David Bowie never gave permission for his songs to be in the movie, although the script originally called for seven of them. Because of that, a lot of original music and unique songs were added. They mixed old and new artists. The actors enjoyed singing the parts, too. David Novack said, “It was like having sound candy.”
Haynes said the doll sequence of the two lead characters was a way to depict the relationship of Wild and Slade. “I also liked it when the wife says, ‘Just because you see two naked people in bed doesn’t mean they were shagging’ and that shows that David Bowie gave us fantasies and gave us a lot of romance to fantasize about.”
Does Haynes think that bisexuality has become more accepted and understood since his movie?
“No, it’s been less understood than it ever was.” Haynes paused and added, “You know, at the time that I did the movie, I think people understood more about bisexuality than they even do now. It seems like it was more accepted at that time.”
The 2015 Film Festival runs through July 19th: http://www.outfest.org/fest2015/