Moonage Daydream (2022)

Director and writer Brett Morgen starts his film with an interesting choice. He does not show the chronological events of Bowie’s life. He instead starts with a song from 1995, “Hallo Spaceboy.” This song is played over old footage of Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie and fans. This sets the tone for the rest of the film which is overwhelming.

Not a normal documentary but an immersive experience

David Bowie’s music, paintings, ideas, influences and interviews from over 50 years of his career are all put together in one glorious collage. I kept thinking of a Kaladeiscope toy I had when young. The film has a dreamy, trippy quality and though over two hours long I didn’t notice the time going.

Morgen dispenses with music talking-head doesn’t include interviews with friends, family, critics, or associates. This is a film centred on Bowie himself and his is the main voice we hear. The only over voices come from fans and interviewers, Mavis Nicholson, and a cringeworthily bitchy Russell Harty (Psychiatrists could probably ponder for hours his antipathy to Bowie).

Much of the criticism of the film is, I think, based on some fans expecting a standard documentary format. This film doesn’t follow that. It’s not a concert film either, although it does have some live concert footage. There are loads of previously unseen clips and lots of unheard mixes of songs.

Those looking for each period of Bowie’s life to be reprented fully or equally will be disapointed. Essentially The periods mainly covered are Ziggy/ Aladin Sane, Berlin & his sad but interesting experiment with commercialism in the 80’s.

Morgen uses image, music, and editing channel Bowie more than explain him. It’s ambitious approach that I think David, the artist and innovator, would admire.

Morgen is successful in communicating the essence of David Bowie’s creative work in a way that is unique and interesting. He uses sound and vision together to create a movie that immerses the viewer in Bowie’s creativity. At times its overwhelming. All this is done in a way that is true to Bowie’s own unique style.

Bowie was ahead of his time in terms of understanding the power of pop culture to shape who we are and how we see the world. Throughout his career, Bowie pushed the boundaries of what pop music could be, constantly experimenting with new sounds and styles. One of the things that made Bowie so unique was his interest in the surface details of our throwaway pop culture. He believed that these details could express profound and radical ideas. For Bowie, the disposable culture of the mainstream was a source of critical inspiration.

Morgen shows how Bowie reflected on his own existential and spiritual development. He tried to find meaning in a world where everything is temporary. There are some fascinating contributions from Bowie on some very deep subjects (such as our understanding of time and attitudes and approach to chaos).

Bowie also played with and re-presented his identity a lot. Sometimes Bowie seemed lost and sad – an outsider. He struggled with addiction at times. He said himself that he never identified with the mainstream. Morgen reveals what Bowie was – a genius and a prophet, a seeker of Truth. Bowie was remarkable in that he could understand and engage while still standing apart. Bowie never stopped expressing his creativity and his output from this, in so many different forms, alone shows the energy he had. Bowie was emotionally, creatively and spiritually happy at the end of his life as the film makes clear. As a Bowie fan and admirer I was very satisfied by that.

There are not many films I would pay to see twice but this is one of them. I don’t think I will ever fully understand Bowie, he was incredibly complex and not always consistent! Yet this film made me fell closer to his spirit.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

Watch the trailer here.

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