As Multi-layered, Exceptional And Imaginative As Bowie Himself
By Liselotte Vanophem
10th of January 2016 was one of the darkest days in music history. It was the day that the Starman himself, David Bowie, died at 69. While the creative chameleon has left us, his musical legacy lives on in many forms. He’s not only an incredible inspiration for aspiring musicians for also for film -and documentary makers. Writer/director Brett Morgen (“Jane”, “Cobain: Montage of Heck”) is the latest in line to ensure that Bowie will never be forgotten, and he does it stunningly. His “Moonage Daydream” is as multi-layered, exceptional and imaginative as the musician.
If you’re going to watch “Moonage Daydream” (preferable in IMAX), don’t expect the usual documentary style. Morgen didn’t fill this documentary with famous people talking about why David Bowie is one of the most memorable artists of all time, about which song is their favourite and how this musician changed their lives forever. No, the life and legacy are being told by the man himself through the many interviews, originally shot images, some popular but many rare Bowie songs, and astonishing editing. It’s a new form that might feel weird or odd (which was probably also the people’s reaction when they first heard and saw Bowie), but this approach works insanely well.
It also becomes clear from the start that Morgen has no intention of following the chronology and the traditional documentary approach that comes with it. “Moonage Daydream” opens with ‘Hallo Spaceboy’, a killer song that means a lot to Morgen as he uses it multiple times throughout his documentary. It’s certainly not Bowie’s most famous one, but that’s what the director wants to go for in this documentary.
Showing us the sides and songs of Bowie we might not know. So don’t expect a sing-along or a feature filled with all your favourite songs. Yes, there are a few stunning live versions of ‘Let’s Dance’, and some footage of ‘Lazarus’ but Morgen certainly didn’t use Bowie’s greatest hits album’ as inspiration for this documentary. Given the vast back catalogue, I would love to know how and why he chose the songs for this documentary.
Bowie isn’t only known for his eclectic and unique music but also for his vivid, constantly changing and remarkable personality, which is something that shines throughout this documentary. From authentic footage of the Ziggy Stardust-era to Bowie applying beautiful make-up and from fans screaming for attention to the singer dressed in the most glamorous outfits throughout his many different eras. Yes, Morgen gives Bowie one last chance to express and reinvent himself.
You will also see the many other art forms close to Bowie’s heart, such as his love for acting. This is shown through sci-fi B-films, “Nosferatu” and “The Passion of Joan of Arc”. Then, of course, we can’t forget the incredible performances of Bowie in “The Man Who Fell to Earth”, “Labyrinth” and “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence”. Also, the passion for art is discussed in this documentary. Bowie wasn’t only a keen collector but also the maker of colourful, vivid and sometimes also dark collages, paintings and sculptures.
From Bowie moving to the US and Berlin to travelling back to London and going on the famous Serious Moonlight tour, which was the beginning of true superstardom to Blackstar, Morgen takes you on a hallucinating trip around the world. No matter the decade, you will always see Bowie dancing, singing and rocking that sexy swagger. We certainly see a lot of Bowie’s earlier work and not much of what he achieved later in life, which is a bit of a shame. However, we understand that a 135-minute documentary is certainly not long enough to capture everything the fantastic artist has done.
Including more of the most recent would have also reduced that repetitive feeling. Sometimes the story arc gets a bit lost, both when it comes to the music and the used footage but then again, don’t we all sometimes get lost when listening to Bowie’s songs?
If there’s one person who showed us what it’s like to live life the way you want, then it’s undoubtedly David Bowie. A great person with an even better sense of humour, song writing and fashion. Like him, “Moonage Daydream” is a stunning expression of creative freedom and must be seen on the biggest screen possible.
“Moonage Daydream” is out now in IMAX and in cinemas on the 23rd of September.
Originally published at https://www.ocmoviereviews.com.