I remember pretty vividly the day I first laid eyes on David Bowie, the eclectic, otherworldly musician who had captivated the globe with his music, look, and views on life. It was 1988 and, like most of my stories from growing up, it begins with my Grandad’s VHS collection, all neatly filed in a cupboard in number order with some yellow notepad paper folded alongside the relevant list of titles adjacent to their numbers. Many of my early film experiences were buried in that collection and one of them was 1986’s fantasy classic Labyrinth, which featured the Starman as Jareth the Goblin King, dressed in a dark cloak and those questionably tight lycra trousers. Eye-popping it certainly was, to say the least, but Jim Henson’s beautiful, mysterious film was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of just what a presence and influence Bowie was. It’s made even more explosive by Brett Morgen’s outstanding documentary, one that’s part life story, part magical mystery tour, but an all-encompassing kaleidoscope of the great man’s phenomenal life and experiences.
Already greeted with huge acclaim in its early screenings, Morgen’s film is unlike any other of its kind and is ferocious and engrossing right from the off. Bathed in a neon hue that’s as flamboyant and propulsive as its subject. This isn’t your standard documentary or indeed biopic: if you want to look at it that way, 2020’s Stardust starring Johnny Flynn took a look at the artist’s time in the early 1970s but struggled to delve anywhere close to the depths that Morgen’s film does. In that way, the film feels fresh and exciting, alluring and utterly transportive. Think of it as a Willy Wonka-style journey on his seahorse boat into his mind, moving from one part of his conscious or subconscious to the next, washing over you with light, colour, and energy.
Punctured by Bowie’s voiceover, thanks to unseen/unheard interviews and audio and video recordings that have been in his vault for many decades as well as the vast array of incredible music that booms through every second (something Stardust was unable to utilise), he’s brought back to life as he talks about his career and his ever-changing personas through the years as well as his views on the world and life itself. We, in turn, spiral down the proverbial rabbit hole with images from films, shows, and other media that have been known to inspire him (2001: A Space Odyssey an obvious influence in many ways). For many, he was the manifestation of freedom: to be who he wanted to be whenever he wanted to be, to push the boundaries and break the rules in ways that hadn’t been before and change the ways of the world, even for a moment.
“There’s never been anything like him” notes one fan and even now, six years after his passing, that statement is still as true as it ever was. An enigma wrapped in a conundrum but dressed like a god, Moonage Daydream is the closest we may ever get to know the real Bowie, and what a ride it is.
Documentary | 2022 | Universal Pictures UK | Theatrical | Dir: Brett Morgen | David Bowie