Moonage Daydream, or the being with a thousand faces

Review of the documentary “Moonage Daydream”, by Brett Morgen, about the life of British singer David Bowie.

By John Stanisci

Reading is cheating.
Someone speaks in another room. The telephone rings. A bird flies past the window. The wind moves the branches of a tree. A car drives down the street honking its horn. Writing has the inability to make these events happen at the same time. Everything always becomes linear, chronological. William Burroughs attempted to destroy linearity in literature through the cut up –after writing, he cut each sentence on a piece of paper, mixed them up, and put them back together. “Thus, when looking at the window around the room, when walking down the street, consciousness is interrupted by random events. Life is a cut up. Cut ups are closer to the facts of human perception than, say, the narrative. The direct, somewhat linear narrative”Burroughs believed. David Bowie took that technique to music, several of his albums are made through cut up. He conceived of reality as a series of random and disorderly events.

That reflects the Brett Morgen documentary Moonage Daydream. The film does not seek to make a biography of Bowie. It has no dates, album covers, opinions, anecdotes or clear references to when each thing happens. It is a concatenation of images of the English singer, interviews, fragments of recitals, mixed with pieces of films that may have influenced the musician, scenes that represent the universe or faces of people that appear to a greater or lesser extent in his discography. It all happens together and at the same time. It’s two hours and twenty of frenzy. One hundred and forty minutes at the post, riding on the multiple personalities of David Bowie.

Do you like boys or girls? It’s confusing these days.

  • This was one of the best tours of our life. I want to thank the band. I want to thank our tour team. Of all the concerts on this tour, this one in particular will be remembered for a long time. Because it’s not just the last concert of the tour. It’s the last recital we’re going to do.

On July 3, 1973, David Bowie brought cheating in music to one of its highest points. At the end of the last concert of the tour he announced that they would not play anymore. The shouts from the public after the announcement sounded more like a plea than an ovation. The next day the papers reported Bowie’s retirement. He was 26 years old. What the public and the press did not know is that Bowie was not referring to his retirement. He was killing, in front of thousands, his most famous character: Ziggy Stardust.

A year and a day earlier, Bowie had hit the very fabric of English culture. His introduction on the show top of the pops it was seen by a quarter of the population of England. Orange hair like a lady in her fifties, a blue guitar and dressed in a green orange and blue jumpsuit and red mid-calf boots. In the chorus she sensually hugged Mick Ronson, the band’s guitarist. It was the public presentation of this Ziggy Stardust. “The questions appear What is he? Where did he come from? Is he a creature of an external power? Is he a weirdo? It is dangerous? Is it smart? Fool? Good with his parents? It is real? Is he crazy? Men? Woman? Robot? What is this?”asks a journalist of the time at the beginning of Moonage Daydream.

Bowie was openly bisexual at a time that was not ready for that. They were the years that forged the rise of Margaret Thatcher. When she talked about her personal relationships, she never made reference to the other person’s gender. Even before Ziggy’s popular explosion, Bowie would appear in videos of him or on album covers of him dressed as a woman. not dressed What a woman. Dress of woman. Her features allowed him to play with androgyny. And thus break with the heteronorm of her time. She not only showed that men could wear platforms or put on makeup. She spoke to a sector of the youth that was not listened to. The rare. Fifty years later, she can fall into the mistake of believing that her music is destined for a cultured and intellectual audience. But in the early seventies she was deeply popular. Her records were bought by the sons and daughters of the working class. “Millions of withdrawn mini-Hamlets living their own loveless hell in all sorts of villages, towns and cities heard those words and were stunned.”wrote the philosopher Simon Critchley in his book Bowie. Critchley was one of those teenagers dissatisfied with the world around them, who felt like Bowie was talking to him.

“Bowie/Ziggy recalibrated sexuality in a loose but distilled way, decidedly daring, but full of refinement,” describes Critchley. He not only accompanied those who felt that no one was looking at them, but also showed a non-binary world. A way of being outside the labels and labels that English society had ready to paste on people’s foreheads. Most of the interviews at the time touched on the subject of his bisexuality. They even accused him of being pedantic for declaring that he liked men and women. There is one of them where the interviewer tried to take him to that place throughout the report. “Those are men’s shoes or women’s shoes? (Are those men’s shoes or women’s shoes?) ”, asks the journalist at one point. Bowie smiles at him and looks down. “They are shoe shoes, silly (they are foot shoes, silly)”, he replies with a playful grin.

David Bowie, Hello Space Boy, 1195

welcome to reality

Brett Morgan embodied in Moonage Daydream David Bowie’s thought. Through the interviews he was able to capture the mutations that he experienced over time -normally frenetically, year after year-, in his ideas about art, spirituality, rock, music or the relationship with his audience. . His perception of his world varies, even to the point of contradiction, as the documentary progresses. But Morgan did not go for linearity, as this would go against Bowie’s own conception of art. Or from reality. Or of both. Morgan breaks songs, fragments interviews, plays with the alien idea that orbits around Bowie.

During the success of Ziggy Stardust in 1972, Bowie thought about bringing the story to the stage. The realization had certain problems, such as the fact of having to represent “black holes” or “infinite”. But in addition, Bowie’s narrative search made his realization more complex. “It would be nice if the characters and the actors learned all the scenes and we shuffled them in a hat at the moment of the performance and interpreted them as chance decided that day,” he said in an interview with William Burroughs in those years.

After the public murder of Ziggy Stardust, Bowie continued to create characters. Some transcended the songs and took over the stage, like Aladdin Sane or the White Duke. Others inhabited some themes never to appear again. Perhaps the strangest character Bowie created was one that had no name. He was even the one who was most confused with the musician himself: the 1980s model Bowie. Blond, impeccable and eager to simplify his songs. Optimistic and friendly in interviews. Surely tired of so much searching. Trying to find a place to settle, doing concerts for hundreds of thousands of people and world tours. The most anti-bowie Bowie of all. To whom, years later, he would also be in charge of assassinating.

It took Morgen five years to make the documentary. With a heart attack in the middle. His objective, I think fulfilled, was not to cover Bowie’s entire life, but to make his own cut. Fragment and destroy the mundane reality through the musician. Try to include, even with the limitations that cinema has in this sense, everything together and at the same time. And that this has a narrative idea behind it. Get punched with Chronos. Show the being of a thousand faces in the most direct way possible.

Moonage DayDream, Trailer

Where to see?

The documentary can be seen at CineMark Palermo, and on a rotating basis it can appear in other cinemas. There is still no date for its premiere on streaming platforms. Recommendation: This long weekend, include it in the plans

Moonage Daydream, or the being with a thousand faces