I have, for reasons that will soon become clear, introduced myself for the first time to the work of director Todd Haynes, the director behind the films Velvet Goldmine, Far From Heaven and most recently I’m Not There, the critically-acclaimed nontraditional Bob Dylan biopic. Prior to this Thursday I hadn’t seen any of his films. Since then I’ve watched Velvet Goldmine—a visually-indulgent rumination on Bowiesque glam rock starring Jonathan Rhys-Davies, Ewan MacGregor, and Christian Bale, and I’m Not There, a film which I now deeply regret missing out on when it was in theatrical distribution.
Musical interlude from Velvet Goldmine
I’m not going to write in great detail about my reaction to these two films because It’s only two points of reference in a far larger body of work, and also because I’m not a film critic and my observations are really just a jumping-off point for my own work, but what I see in these movies is first and foremost the work of someone who is having a great deal of fun. Velvet Goldmine especially often incorporates elements, be they cinematic devices, musical interludes, even plot points, that do not by any conventional criteria belong in the film, but rather seem to exist only because Haynes liked them. This seems to me to be a dangerous way to make films, and yet in the cases of both Velvet Goldmine and I’m Not There, I would argue that the inclusion of such elements is what makes the movies such a joy to watch. There’s also a real sense of playfulness within the storytelling form, mixing fake documentary and television footage with stylized visuals and also more traditional diegetic narrative. And all of this gives me exciting ideas.
Anyway, is anyone else out there familiar with Haynes’ work? If there was one question you could ask him, what would it be?