Demise comes for us all, even – because it did at midnight days of early 2016 – the seemingly immortal David Bowie, whose earthly departure felt each sudden and, in a way, lengthy overdue: the starman had lastly pulled the final word inventive reinvention, disappearing into the cosmos from whence he got here.
Within the years since, the shapeshifting icon has encountered a destiny worse than loss of life: enshrinement within the pantheon of rock ‘n’ roll delusion; the very factor that the stressed artist – the actor – doubtless would have disdained.
The music endures, after all, however amid the infinite biggest hits repackagings and field units, the picture, so typically lowered to a cartoon lighting bolt and flaming mullet, now adorns espresso mugs, grownup colouring books, and licensed T-shirts lining the racks at chain shops. Crack, child, crack.
Moonage Daydream, the primary formally sanctioned Bowie documentary since his passing, appears designed to push the star again into the realm of artwork, marvel, stressed experimentation.
Whereas broadly encompassing the spectacular arc of his profession, its two-and-a-half hours of sound and imaginative and prescient largely eschews biographical element and dispenses, no less than on the floor, with the trimmings of the normal rock documentary, providing as an alternative an immersive collage narrated, in spectral voice over, by Bowie himself.
Director Brett Morgen, a type of self-styled rockstar filmmaker whose résumé boasts the beautiful good Kurt Cobain movie Montage of Heck, was given the keys to the Bowie kingdom by the late singer’s property, and reportedly took 5 years (what a shock!) in combing hundreds of hours of footage, a lot of it – or so we’re promised – unseen, or no less than radically restored from the archive.
What he is assembled is much less a definitive account of a life than an impressionistic portrait, one which the press package touts as an ”experiential cinematic odyssey”, a montage-heavy journey via Bowie’s music, artwork, and writing threaded collectively by reflections on his inventive course of.
Held in opposition to the usual of the standard music documentary, Moonage Daydream is formally and sonically bold, favouring temporal echoes, psychic connections and visible motifs over linear narrative – it circles and loops again throughout Bowie’s profession, permitting varied incarnations of the singer to commune with one another, floating in a most peculiar method.
The movie’s first half, roughly devoted to Bowie’s glam rock reign within the early 70s, is its most exhilarating, capturing the singer’s visible transformation with an electrical eye. Although a lot of the footage is acquainted, Morgen has accessed the unique digital camera masters and, in some instances, alternate angles and outtakes, to breathe new life into clips from Life on Mars? and Ziggy Stardust’s swan music that burst with a ravishing sense of immediacy.
Working with Bowie’s longtime producer Tony Visconti and sound mixer Paul Massey, who’ve reassembled (and in some situations remixed) lots of Bowie’s tracks from their unique stems, Morgen has cranked up the sound to pleasingly ear-shattering ranges, which means the movie performs like a live performance – which is smart whenever you realise that the filmmaker has inked a multi-picture deal to make extra music movies for the IMAX format (the easiest way to see this, by the way, when you can).
Moonage Daydream cannot fairly maintain that preliminary rapture, although. The spell is damaged as soon as Morgen runs right into a extra linear post-70s narrative, as if responding to Bowie’s personal artistic stasis as he recalibrated to an 80s pop panorama he’d assist outline – what Deborah Elizabeth Finn as soon as referred to as his “pissed off messianism”.
Seems it is thematically straightforward to map the rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust, however Bowie’s many slippery identities that adopted – Crowley-esque magician, Teutonic unhappy boy, Goblin King – show more durable to parse, unmooring the movie’s cohesion.
The result’s a type of paradoxical exhaustion – reels of improbable footage and peerless music rendered in pummeling, effects-heavy montages that dazzle however ultimately overwhelm, wanting for some rhythmic variation (Morgen, bless, additionally has one quantity setting: 11). It is each an excessive amount of Bowie – phrases I by no means thought I would kind – and someway not sufficient.
Extra wearying, in that sense, is the narrative via line that lurks beneath the movie’s flashy exterior. For all its much-vaunted experimentalism, Moonage Daydream cleaves to a really easy, even dad-rock evaluation of Bowie’s profession, one which privileges his early success over a extra imaginative exploration of his supposed fallow period. (Simply attempt telling any child raised on Labyrinth, and Bowie’s gender-rupturing look in it, that it deserved to be relegated to the ‘errors’ reel.)
Morgen’s movie is not designed to be complete, after all, nor to maintain the pedantry of super-fans (positive, it might’ve been a thrill to see Bowie’s coked-out Soul Prepare efficiency on a 16-metre-high display), however a few of the omissions – scant consideration paid to a significant work like Station to Station; not a glimpse of Angela Bowie, an inestimable affect on her former husband’s early success – stay shocking. (Props, nonetheless, for letting the good music video for D.J., one in every of Bowie’s most unsung singles, unspool in its close to entirety.)
Nonetheless, Bowie’s inherent strangeness – his queerness, no matter form it took – can not help however radiate via the imagery. Luminously restored footage from the 1978 Earl’s Courtroom live performance finds a star in rousing homoerotic sailor mode, whereas eerie excavated Severe Moonlight-era clips, with the waxy, flaxen-haired ‘straight’ man gliding via a Bangkok terminus, make Bowie appear extra alien than any of his arch glam guises – his otherness, trapped inside a pop purgatory, magnified by the unnatural hue of the footage.
The movie is sprinkled with these little moments of revelation, even because it tangles with the burden of pre-digested myths; passages that glint with risk as Morgen barrels towards an operatic crescendo – all cosmic explosions and thematic grandeur – that appears hell-bent on blasting past the infinite of 2001: A Area Odyssey.
The accent is on transcendence, in bending the unruly tangents of a generally sophisticated profession to a shimmering, if often hagiographic imaginative and prescient of the musician as some type of benevolent, galactic sage.
That is the factor about Bowie, although: he meant so many alternative issues to so many alternative generations, and Moonage Daydream is that type of expertise – for each obsessive who leaves scratching their head with a taxonomy of what may’ve been, there will be simply as many viewers members who emerge from the cinema with their minds blown. And there will be a soundtrack, and a commemorative ebook – and possibly even an formally licensed Main Tom onesie on your canine – to protect the reminiscence.
Moonage Daydream is in cinemas now.