CP: Do you see that kind of galvanizing artwork happening elsewhere these days? To use just one example: Are there current manifestations of glam rock that strike you as progressive? Some people have suggested Marilyn Manson as a torchbearer in these terms--or is that something else entirely?
HAYNES: I don't think it's possible to go back or to apply these same ideas to our culture today. I think there are things we can continue to learn from the transgressions of glam rock, but we're such a different society today. Although we are more "aware" of history because it's already happened, and there's a sense, in this sort of postmodern world we live in, that you have access to everything at once, and everything is available, the political meaning and the notion of a real "left" and a real "right" has so changed. I don't think these artistic experiments are invested with the same implications or the same potential.
CP: You've said that Velvet Goldmine is the most "affirmative" film that you've made--and then, in the next breath, that this is sort of scary to you [laughs]. I wonder if you could elaborate on that a bit: In what way do you think the film is affirmative? What can it do? What do you hope it can do when it meets the audience? What can it say to a young audience, in particular?
HAYNES: Well, I don't believe in giving you the right answer as a filmmaker. Still, I think Velvet Goldmine is an affirmative film by my standards, and certainly compared to my film Safe. If you look at both of these as movies that are ultimately about identity and the ways in which the world limits our sense of freedom about who we are, Safe critiques all the prescriptions for illness and doesn't really give you a way out. It asks you to find your own way out, and in the end I think that's the most radical thing a film can do, to ask the right questions.
Velvet Goldmine looks at a time when there were some answers being offered, some possibilities for change in the culture. That era's definitely lost to us now--in the film, too, as it's framed by scenes of this incredibly repressive society of the '80s. But it still gives you this hope that there was this time when things were loose and open, when the popular culture posed a lot of important questions and gave a multitude of answers that you could choose from.