Brett Morgen, screenwriter: “I wanted to do an impressionistic portrait of Bowie”

Brett Morgen signs with “Moonage Daydream” a fantastic dive into the universe and the head of David Bowie, alien fallen into our world, Major Tom, Spaceboy, and Starman.

Already author of a remarkable documentary on Kurt Cobain, Brett Morgan offers with “Moonage Daydream”, through private visual and sound archives provided by the family, a fantastic journey in time and space, from “Space Oddity” to “Blackstar”, through the universe artistry by David Bowie, revealing in passing the extra earthling behind the extra-terrestrial.

Brett Morgan.

Thanks to your film, based on 5 million archives that you pored over over four years and through editing that required 18 months of work, we finally discover the real David Bowie behind all the figures, the characters behind whom he has taken refuge all his career…

Certainly, but it is difficult for me to say that I agree. It’s hard for me to compare David Jones, the person, with the David Bowie who appears in “Moonage Daydream”. What the public experiences during the film is based on my feelings when I reviewed all the media known to the artist that he was. I would not want to give the impression of suggesting that we know David Jones better than those who were close to him during his lifetime.. But in terms of the David Bowie I was able to access, I really think what’s presented is an accurate reflection of what I’ve experienced in my research through different media.

“He had developed an awareness of the theatrical quality of rock’n’roll, theatricalization which he himself created, even contributed, to develop.”

Brett Morgan

Director of “Moonage Daydream”

Was Bowie more a man of images, of vision than of sound?

No. He was above all interested in music, which was at first his main vocation. But he had obviously developed an awareness of the theatrical quality of rock’n’roll, a theatricalization that he himself created, even helped to develop.

From “Space Oddity” to “Blackstar”, you metaphorically show Bowie as a Space Oddity traveling from one small musical planet to another, much like the Little Prince?

It’s a very nice comment and a nice observation: I like this comparison. (he smiles).

Was Bowie some kind of black hole, absorbing the zeitgeist of the time?

I should think about it… It’s an interesting question, and I hope I have time to answer it in more detail…

“‘Moonage Daydream’ exemplifies the creative and spiritual journey as Bowie envisioned it.”

You don’t mention the influences, borrowings from Marc Bolan, Iggy Pop, or the beginnings. Why?

I believe that the mistake not to make when making a rock documentary or a kind of biography is precisely to want to cover everything from A to Z of the life of an artist.

Two hours is a long time, and you might end up with the story’s footnotes. Instead, I tried to make an impressionist portrait and not a real biography of David Bowie. Not a movie that would be a pivotal moment in telling the story of his life: “Moonage Daydream” exemplifies the creative and spiritual journey as Bowie envisioned it.

You illustrate remarkably the fact that for a long time David Bowie was someone who ran away from himself…

(silence) Maybe, yes.

Was rock then a catharsis for him?

Yes, of course, that’s what I believe. But in fact, it would be better to ask him… (he smiles). This is what I think, but I do not wish to draw conclusions for him and prefer to limit myself to my observations of what I experienced during sequencing: I don’t feel entitled to speak for him.


At 43, he met Imam, his second wife. Through the film, we now feel happy, optimistic, peaceful: creativity seems to leave him. Would we dare to evoke the cliché of the necessary mental torture of the artist to create?

I do not agree. Why do you say that?

Because of the cliché that it is often discomfort, malaise that helps creativity in an artist…

I respect and understand what you are saying…although I totally disagree. I would say that is purely subjective. But the period between “Never Let Me Down” and “Outside” is certainly of lower quality. With the aesthetic of “Outside”, the artist that he was sought to achieve a less mainstream musical project, pushing creativity far during the sessions of this album.

“I am convinced that thanks to his meeting with Imam, he was able to really flourish again.”

My experience of Bowie is that there was this lower period in terms of quality, especially with “Never Let Me Down” which he himself referred to as his nadir. “Thin Machine” was on the other hand a kind of first reconnection in terms of creative current, energy in any case. When “Black Tie White Noise” came out, the album was seen as a comeback, but I don’t really see it as a move away from mainstream music. On the other hand, when Bowie tackles “Outside”, a huge turning point takes place. And I am convinced that thanks to his meeting with Imam, he was able to truly flourish again.

Once again, this is my reading of events: I’m a big fan of “Outside”, “Earthling”, “Heathen”, “The Next Day” or “Blackstar”.

Bowie managed to find a new way to keep creating?

Exact. And as you rightly said, he succeeded in doing so by immersing himself physically and metaphorically in the arms of Imam.

“The sound of his music changed dramatically during the last twenty years of his life.”

With “Outside”, he once again became the explorer, the musical experimenter that he was: the sound of his music changed dramatically during the last twenty years of his life. There was a big misunderstanding when some claimed that he was trying to catch up with the popular fashion or genre of the time. In cultural terms, he has always appropriated the rhythms and sounds of the moment to make them his own. But once again with “Outside”, we can’t really accuse him of surfing the trend or of making an album for the purpose of commercial exploitation, and of being creatively diminished. This album does not seek to replicate Ziggy or what he would have done before: it is the realization of many ideas, from the beginning of his fragmented career and his appearance in the eyes of the general public.

Trailer “Moonage Daydream”

A “chaos”, the word often comes up in his mouth during the documentary, fragmentations?

In effect. In the late 1970s, when he was living in Berlin, when he was still associated with his characters like Halloween Jack and the Thin White Duke, Bowie was someone I would rather call the teacher, especially at the time of the 1977 press tour.

“At the end of the 1970s, he was very intellectually engaged, often speaking of Nietzsche, Joyce, Einstein, Freud, the great minds of the early 20th century.”

During this period, he is very engaged intellectually, often speaking of Nietzsche, Joyce, Einstein, Freud, the great minds of the beginning of the twentieth century marked by the deconstruction of these ideas by the horrors that will follow, sources of anxiety in the mind. of a boy born after them. Topics David talked about passionately in an interview. But when he wrote “Outside,” almost twenty years later, Bowie was ready to examine his own narrative head-on.

What I found magnificent in digging through all the archival material, before the final version, was to witness this kind of comfort, of pleasure that he had in playing the characters of his first era. But I don’t think he was a less interesting artist afterwards.

I also have enormous respect for the way he led his life., because he waited, and most of us don’t show that resolve or that commitment – artistically, creatively, the moment he thought he could give so much of himself to another person. Which is wonderful…

Sound and Vision

This outstanding documentary (the director had access to 5 million documents of all kinds), assembly of rare archives, old films, extracts from news of the time, is intended as a collage, technique which David Bowie was fond of musically, especially in the case of the album “Outside”. Punctuated by confidences of the artist at any age, the film gives a touching image of the man behind the artistconstantly running away from himself during the first part of his life, haunted by the schizophrenia that affects his half-brother and his motherbefore finding serenity in the arms of Imam, synonymous with the end of opulent creativity.

The film, punctuated (with concert excerpts in particular of remarkable sound quality), which is not hagiographic, nor very critical of Bowie’s various borrowings from these beginnings, sometimes takes looks of self-confession and gives thanks to the protean artist (theater, cinema, sculpture, painting… music) that was this vampire (see the film “The Predators”) from elsewhere, who sucked the zeitgeist of the time to feed on it.

Moonage Daydream which often shows anonymous David Bowie in Asian lands during the era of “Let’s Dance” and “Furyo” – which reinforces the feeling of alien-ation (one of its titles is called “Loving The alien”)an alien among earthlingsproves to be a superb tribute to an artist who has made a long time in his career, his music and his art, the praise of flight… from itself.

Brett Morgan

On view from September 14.

A special viewing will take place at Bozar in room M that same day at 7 p.m. (screening at 8 p.m.) introduced by rocker Ozark Henry and art historian and curator Constantin Chariot. Learn more

Note from L’Echo:

Brett Morgen, screenwriter: “I wanted to do an impressionistic portrait of Bowie”