All That Glitter Allows

And [Velvet Goldmine] is a very different kind of film. It's really inspired by films that came out of '60s drug culture, like 2001 and Performance and A Clockwork Orange--films that invited you to go somewhere completely unknown. And I guess in a way those films were my glam rock--they were the invitation toward a kind of self-exploration that I just don't see being offered as much to young people today. I've always hoped that Velvet Goldmine could be that kind of film. And that's where I'm the most excited and hopeful--about the film's potential to reach the youngest filmgoers, those who didn't even live through the '70s and aren't bringing some of the baggage that people my age [37] might bring to the film.

CP: I love the quote of yours from Sight and Sound where you say, "I hoped [Velvet Goldmine] would be like those trippy movies you'd go to and then analyze with your friends; buy the record and play it over and over again and ponder its meaning." What that sounds like to me is, basically, a cult film, you know--of the '70s, almost. And the context, the environment for such films has just changed so much in terms of the demise of the midnight movie, stemming in turn from the demise of independent theaters and campus film societies and rep houses--it's hard to have that kind of collective experience with a movie anymore.

HAYNES: Yes. It's frightening to me. I mean, I wouldn't even be making films if it weren't for arts grants--in other words, without the realization that there's a kind of filmmaking outside of the commercial market that needs to be supported. I would never have begun to push my script for Poison [1991] around to the traditional financing sources in either mainstream or independent film circles. At the time it just seemed ludicrous to me because I was coming from a completely different perspective. At that time there were still grants to be gotten--and on the, sort of, strength of my film Superstar, I was able to get grants to make Poison. That's completely dried up now, as have the venues for experimental film. They don't teach experimental film in film school anymore; they don't show experimental film in art centers anymore because those art centers are often drying up, particularly those related to film. So it's really a total demise of so many important traditions that have paralleled the dominant film industry for years.

CP: What do we do?

HAYNES: I don't know, I really don't know. I think some of the new technology is encouraging, because it puts the apparatus back into the hands of the consumer. You can make films on video, cheaply, and I think that is taking place now. Video is not as beautiful as Super 8 and 16mm [laughs], but it at least gives people the hands-on ability to experiment and try stuff and not necessarily think about where it's gonna go. What's sad is that kids don't seem to want to experience things that aren't part of the industry. It's a cycle, and you don't know where the cycle begins, but I hear from friends of mine who teach that there isn't the interest or the patience or the curiosity that there's been in the past--that our focus is getting narrower and narrower.

CP: It almost makes you hope that things will get even worse in order that they might get better and turn the other way, in that kind of continual, cultural tug-of-war that happens over time.

HAYNES: Yes, exactly.

CP: You know, everyone naturally talks about Velvet Goldmine in relation to Citizen Kane, which you were obviously thinking about a lot when you made your film, and it's funny that, at least in Minneapolis, Citizen Kane is being re-released on the very same day that your movie comes out.

HAYNES: Oh, really? Citizen Kane? I know Touch of Evil is out but I didn't know about Citizen Kane. I wonder why they're re-releasing Citizen Kane.

CP: I think it's the whole American Film Institute thing, you know. [Citizen Kane was recently voted "the greatest American movie of all time" by the AFI.] But what's really interesting is that another film coming out on November 6, also in re-release, is The Big Chill [1983], which I watched the other day and found so striking in relation to your movie--partly in terms of the treatment of vinyl records [laughs]. You know, one of the most remarkable scenes in your film is that incredibly tactile, beautiful, sensual scene of the journalist character putting on the [Maxwell Demon] record, and for him it's this liberating, almost activist kind of spiritual awakening. It's everything to him. And in The Big Chill, when the Kevin Kline character puts on records, it's always to preempt thought and discussion, political discussion especially. The records provide this kind of pure escapism.

HAYNES: Right. It's different forms of nostalgia. And I guess "nostalgia" is a sort of pejorative term. People sometimes ask me, "I know your film is not nostalgic, but..." And Velvet Goldmine actually is nostalgic. Some kinds of nostalgia are more invested in a kind of activism--there's something you want to learn from the past to make you, perhaps, galvanize the present or rethink the present. And then sometimes you just want to escape the present.

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