If you live in or have easy, safe access to London and a David Bowie fan, the BFI Southbank will be your home in January. The BFI have announced ‘Bowie: Starman And The Silver Screen ‘ Season, celebrating his work not just as an musician but also as an actor and performer on the screen.
BFI Southbank with a month-long season celebrating actor and performer, 5 years since his death. Running from 1-30 January, the season’s mixture of feature films, television and documentaries will show that, whether a bit-part, starring role, or being just himself, David Bowie was always magnetic on screen. Films screening in the season will include
The Man Who Fell To Earth (Nicolas Roeg, 1976), Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (Nagisa Ôshima, 1983) Christine F. (Uli Edel, 1981), The Hunger (Tony Scott, 1983) and Labyrinth (Jim Henson, 1986), while documentaries, concert films and TV work will include Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars (DA Pennebaker, 1979), BAAL (Alan Clarke, 1982), Bowie At Glastonbury 2000 (BBC, 2000) and a collection of rare TV material from the BFI National Archive.
As a composer, innovator and concept artist, Bowie’s fascination for film fed an insatiable creative drive which the season will also explore, via a selection of titles that influenced him. This season will feature a range of titles, from 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968) and The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920) to Querelle (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1982) and Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976). The season will also include special events at BFI Southbank and online via BFI YouTube; a highlight of the events programme will be the return of BUG with comedian Adam Buxton on what would have been Bowie’s 74th birthday – 8 January. Bowie’s engagement with film, theatre and design forged his high-concept approach to pop stardom and supercharged the evolution of music video; BUG Special: David Bowie will be a fan’s journey through the career of an artist whose influence on modern popular culture will continue to be felt for decades, featuring music videos, rare clips, animation and comedy.
Some key Bowie titles, and a number of the films from Hooked To The Silver Screen series will also be available for audiences across the UK to watch on BFI Player throughout January as well. It can be hard to look beyond Bowie ‘the star’ to appreciate the characters he portrayed, but five years on from his passing, Bowie’s star still sparkles brightly.
Bowie’s first starring role was in The Man Who Fell To Earth (Nicolas Roeg, 1976) as an alien outfitted in human skin who’s forced to come to earth to save his dying planet. Nic Roeg found in Bowie’s eccentricity just what he was looking for – not an actor trying to play an alien, but a lost soul trying to play a human. The film adaptation of Kai Hermann’s controversial biography of a teen junkie and sex worker, Christine F. (Uli Edel, 1981), marks its 40th anniversary in 2021. The film positioned Bowie as a brooding god for the alienated youth of 70s West Berlin via his omnipresent image in the film (in which he played himself) – on streets, subways, on vinyl albums passed from hand to hand, and in a live concert within the film. The opening scene of ’s The Hunger (1983) sets the tone for an impeccably stylish, erotic horror as Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie, stalk across the screen accompanied by Bauhaus’ goth-rock track ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’. The film focuses on Miriam’s doomed vampiric romances, including one with a sceptical scientist, who becomes the latest subject of Miriam’s primal passion.
Bowie and Ryuichi Sakamoto (another musician-turned-actor) play strangely bonded antagonists in Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (Nagisa Oshima, 1983), a study of brutalisation and repressed desire in a Japanese POW camp. Julien Temple’s Absolute Beginners (Julien Temple, 1986) is a tale of young lovers divided, against a backdrop of generational conflict, gentrification and white supremacy in 1950s London, Directed by the legendary Jim Henson, and starring Jennifer Connelly alongside David Bowie, Labyrinth (1986) was a commercial disappointment upon release and received mixed reviews, but has since become a cult favourite with children and adults alike.
Originally met with universal derision, almost 30 years on Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (David Lynch, 1992) has a short but impactful appearance from Bowie as Agent Jeffries. Artist Julian Schnabel’s directorial debut Basquiat (1996) is a star-studded biopic of the gifted and prolific painter and street artist Jean Michel Basquiat, who died at the age of 27. Bowie plays Andy Warhol, The Prestige (Christopher Nolan, 2006) Christopher Nolan petitioned Bowie to play the role of Nikola Tesla as he couldn’t imagine anyone else as the physicist, engineer and innovator.
The truly remarkable concert film Ziggy Stardust & The Spider From Mars (DA Pennebaker, 1979), which mixed backstage material with concert footage, captured the moment that Bowie stunning the audience it would be the last ever Ziggy show. Amazingly DA Pennebaker vaguely heard of Bowie before he filmed the legendary show/Documentary.
Cracked Actor (BBC, 1975), captures Bowie post Ziggy Stardust as the BBC follow him across Los Angeles Intercut with footage from the Diamond Dogs tour and studio sessions for Young Americans, it’s the fragile silhouette of a man beneath a black fedora in the back seat of a limo that was to enter Bowie iconography, and inspire his casting in The Man Who Fell To Earth.
For full Details and to book for ‘Bowie: Starman And The Silver Screen‘ Season (1st- 30th January 2021), head over to BFI Website.