David Bowie’s Dazzling ‘Moonage Daydream’: A Superfan’s Review of the First Graduate School-Level Music Documentary

The first thing to know before watching “Moonage Daydream,” Brett Morgan’s dazzling, exhaustive, and exhausting memoir about the life and career of David Bowie, is that it assumes the viewer already knows a lot about the subject—his Relevance, his influence, his talent for much of his music, and the basics of his personal history. Like another recent historical film about Todd Haynes’ “The Velvet Underground”—it eschews the standard, chronological, death-to-death “Behind the Music”-style template that has become a predictable default for music documentaries. and finds a dramatically different way of telling a story.

In the case of “Moonge Daydream”—the importance of the second word of the title in this Impressionist film cannot be overstated—it’s a different approach to letting the man do all the talking: virtually the only voiceover heard in this 135. – The minute-long film features Bowie (featuring real or conveniently fictionalized accounts of his life and work) and various interviewees. While this creates an unusually free-form approach to structuring a documentary (and was quite challenging for Morgan, who worked on the film for more than four years and suffered a heart attack while doing it), in many ways In It’s Free: The rigid timeline that determines the story, in Bowie’s words, rather than a coercive, broad subject matter.

There is a short introduction; You’re directly immersed in the early 1970s and into “Ziggy Stardust.” And though the film spans Bowie’s peak years (primarily his first decade of superstardom, which was certainly also his musical peak), songs and moments from other eras swoon like characters from a dream.

The film doesn’t try to be perfectionist: Bowie’s life story has been put off for a while, so much of it is missed. His first and last 20 years are briefly described, although it is worth disclosing; There is no glimpse of his first wife, Angela (who made a huge and little-accepted influence on the Ziggy era) or their children, although his older brother Terry, perhaps the biggest influence on young Bowie, grows up from normal viewing. . But the worn-out anecdotes of former colleagues, paramours, managers and hangers-on are none—and because Bowie died more than six years ago, he already had his last word.

Filled with contemplative statements like “When you feel comfortable with yourself, you can’t write anymore” and in-depth footage of Bowie walking, painting, and performing artistically as well, “Moonage” Daydream” is the first graduate school-level musical documentary—it omits the basics and glory in the details, which really gives the film a big right. It not only assumes that the viewer knows that Bowie wrote “Change” and “Rebel Rebel” and “Fame” and “Fashion” (and bravely omits those and other classics in favor of lesser-known songs). ), but also that we know them it’s good that we never need to hear them again. In fact, some songs or videos are broadcast in full here, and one that does—a raucously sung live version of “Modern Love”—seems to emphasize Bowie’s remarks that his music is his most catchy. That’s how mild the ’80s quote was. To megastardom, the album “Let’s Dance”. What ultimately amounted to a hollow retrospective paycheck to his innovation years in that era: “Although it was very successful, there was no increase,” Bowie says in a voiceover.

This is really the emotional low point of the film, which slowly turns into a retrospective regret for those years and how they drained him spiritually and creatively, and then the music of the 1990s after meeting his wife Iman. Went to the Resurrection, with whom he spent the last 18. years of his life.

Despite the graduate-school approach — and the film’s unprecedented access to Bowie’s own archives — it’s more about the artist, the art, and the man than the red meat for the superfan. Most of the footage is relatively well-known: DA Pennebaker’s “Ziggy Stardust” concert film and Alan Yentob’s 1975 BBC “Cracked Actor” documentary, as well as several of his music videos and feature films such as “The Man Who Fell to Earth” and “The Hunger”. ” But there’s also no shortage of incredibly rare footage, presented with a refreshing emphasis on historical or emotional interest rather than fidelity: many optimal video clips and scratch-off audio interviews from Heaven don’t know. And for geeks, there’s super-rare footage from the early “Ziggy Stardust” dates in England, a segment of “Rock and Roll with Me” from the much less documented 1974 “Soul Tour” and even That there is also footage of him with Elizabeth Taylor. William Burroughs (though not simultaneously, unfortunately).

Essentially, there’s a lot missing, possibly due to rights issues: two of their songs were performed live on the “Dinah Shore Show” in 1976 (which may have been an early-morning eye for the show’s housewarming-heavy audience). ), and her surprise 1975 appearance on Cher’s NBC variety show, where she performed not only a killer duet on Bowie’s “Can You Hear Me,” but also a groundbreaking medley that included “Da Do Ron Ron,” “Blue Moon,” “Day Tripper” and worse. , But there’s always YouTube for them.

“I have an incredible life—I’d love to do it again,” Bowie says in a voiceover, and in his innovative, dream-like fashion, “Moonage Daydream” offers the most complete description of that life ever.

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