Velvet Goldmine (15) Not for the literal-minded, Todd Haynes's extraordinary glam-rock odyssey has attracted a number of detractors, many of whom, somewhat obtusely, question the authenticity of a movie whose very subject is artifice. But the film is essential viewing for anyone with even a passing interest in the artistic possibilities of the medium. It's one intoxicating trip of a movie, but like everything else its writer-director has ever done (from the cult Karen Carpenter short Superstar to the misunderstood masterpiece Safe), it's a cerebral, ambitious work, with meanings and nuances that resonate well beyond the final frame. Velvet Goldmine is not a Bowie biopic, but a fan's fantasy, re-imagining the fleeting polysexual glam-utopia of the early 1970s largely from the point of view of a tentative, excited suburban teenager (Christian Bale, in a complex performance). The rock-star characters are Ziggy/Iggy derivatives: androgynous pin-up Brian Slade (Jonathan Rhys Meyer) and feral rocker Curt Wild (Ewan McGregor). There is little "character development" in any conventional sense, but the film's shiny, rock-opera two-dimensionality locates it within the framework of Haynes's longstanding formal concerns, posing ingeniously framed questions about identity and representation. Dense and deliriously volatile, the narrative is a compound of loosely disguised fact, imaginative extrapolation, and wistful wish-fulfilment. The music is comparably bold and giddy, a grab bag of choice artefacts (including early Roxy Music and Brian Eno) and inspired counterfeits (respectful yet vibrant covers and newly commissioned material). One of the key films of the decade, no question.
Halloween H20 (18)
The title translates as "Halloween 7: I Know What You Did 20 Years Ago". A model of manipulative terror, the 1978 John Carpenter original remains, for all the cliches it initiated, remarkably resonant. H20 - the first to star Jamie Lee Curtis since 1981's Halloween II - is directed by Steve Miner (who made two of the Friday the 13th movies). The movie is more competent than past cash-ins but almost as uninspired. After a feeble opening, it settles into a paroxysmal routine of cheap thrills, coming alive only in fits and (false) starts.