Bowie done justice but a haircut wouldn't have hurt
Moonage Daydream (2022)
Directed and produced by Brett Morgen
Moonage Daydream, Brett Morgen’s love letter to David Bowie, is complete sensory overload.
Sitting in a near empty cinema on a Sunday evening, I found myself both captivated and bored at the same time. The documentary, at about 135 minutes, was long and some of the footage was used multiple times which was distracting; it could have been edited tighter.
Morgen as director, producer and editor has put together an epic that does, in some way, portray Bowie’s legacy, doing it justice.
Visually, the film was stunning, featuring footage I’d never seen before… not that I’d consider myself a Bowie tragic, but all people of a certain age found their lives intertwined with Ziggy or The Thin White Duke to some extent. Rare live footage of The Spiders was plentiful, if mentions of the contribution of that band, and especially Mick Ronson, were not.
Morgen’s art direction was a clumsy allegory to the chaos and isolation Bowie seems to have fostered. As an insight into the man as an artist you came away with a sense of his disconnection and disordered and chaotic approach to his craft.
The archival footage both on and off stage was plentiful, and you genuinely got a feel for the extent of his many talents with Bowie’s painting and videography featured extensively. There are many montages that flash through gigs and offstage footage at a great pace that becomes exhausting.
The sound of this film is spectacular, with musical compilations put together by his long-time producer and collaborator, Tony Visconti with Academy Award winning engineer Paul Massey. Sonically sharp the audio track reinforces the deliberately chaotic narrative, but more importantly delivers a broad retrospective of his career.
“Major Tom” is a re-current theme, as expected, but material from “The Man Who Sold The World”, “Width of a Circle” all the way to his final album “Blackstar” was covered off. Footage from his early career hometown gigs in Brixton brought home how quickly Bowie’s star had risen and the slavish devotion of his fan base in those developing stages of his career.
“Moonage Daydream” seems to try and cement Bowie’s status as a genius and an innovator who is pure of heart. It briefly touched on him appearing Pepsi ads with Tina Turner (eek) but completely left out his awful cover of “Dancing in the Streets” with Mick Jagger.
Bowie’s West German work with Brian Eno is mentioned, and Bowie, in one of the disconnected voiceovers where he imparts his “wisdom” upon us seems to acknowledge that Eno’s impact was significant.
As the filmed trailed over the latter stages of his career and his acting from “The Labyrinth”, “Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence” and the absolute stinker, “Absolute Beginners”, it felt like Bowie was running out of steam… although there is a sense that he knew he was a regular bloke, even if his fan base didn’t. My mind trailed off to the anecdote of Bowie in Dylan Jones’s book about Bowie being on the set of his clip for “Ashes to Ashes”:
The filming was interrupted at one point by an old man walking his dog, looking for driftwood. The director, David Mallet asked him if he wouldn’t mind moving, and pointed out Bowie sitting outside the catering van. ‘Do you know who this is?’ he asked. Sharp as a tack, the old man responded with, ‘Of course I do. It’s some c*&^ in a clown suit.’ Sometime later, Bowie remembered, ‘That was a huge moment for me. It put me back in my place and made me realise, 'Yes, I’m just a c*&^ in a clown suit'.