Film4: Tuesday 15 December, 1.10am
Journalist Christian Bale looks into the disappearance of glam-rock star Jonathan Rhys Meyers 10 years after he faked his own death on stage in 1974. Todd Haynes’ ambitious musical drama deliberately follows a cinematic tradition adopted by Orson Welles in Citizen Kane, the piece-meal study of an enigmatic character. The same trick was tried in the 1980s, in Eddie and the Cruisers but this is a much wittier film. Rhys Meyers’ is Brian Slade, a name evocative of Roxy Music’s Eno and the Brummie band who koodn’t spell though the character is clearly fashioned after chameleon rock star David Bowie. So closely, in fact, that the erstwhile David Jones threatened to sue.
Brian Slade is a stack-heeled singer who finds fame as spage age rocker Maxwell Demon in the early 1970s and infamy after a publicity stunt backfires. Ewan McGregor is Curt Wild, an Iggy Pop figure to Slade’s not-really Bowie. Wild is a crazy young man who had electro-shock treatment as a teenager – so every time he hears electric guitars, he goes bonkers. Whatever you might think of the subject – trivial, silly, solemn or just plain sleazy – there’s no doubting this is the work of a real film-maker.
The short sequence depicting Christian Bale’s leaving of his northern home is beautifully judged, shown in just four or five separate shots, in silence. Haynes often nimbly skips past cinematic cliché in conjuring up an era of sham glam and excess, and even if the film doesn’t amount to much more than boys behaving wanly, it’s pretty swish.