Reviews: Criticism of “Moonage Daydream”, a documentary by Brett Morgen about David Bowie

Director of The Kid Stays in the Picture, Chicago 10, The Rolling Stones: Crossfire Hurricane Y Cobain: Montage of Heck offers an extraordinary, colossal portrait of one of the most influential artists of all time. The film will have special showings in theaters of the Cinemark Hoyts and Showcase chains (including IMAX), almost all on Thursday, September 15.

Moonage Daydream (United States/2022). Script, edition and direction. Brett Morgen. Music production: Tony Visconti. Duration: 140 minutes.

A few days before it premiered at the same 75th edition of Cannes Jerry Lee Lewis: Trouble in Mind, a basic and lazy documentary by Ethan Coen narrated by The Killer from statements taken from archve interviews. The idea of Moonage Daydream It is the same, that it is the White Duke who exposes his vision of the world, of art and of life, but the result is diametrically opposite. From basic and superficial editing done on autopilot, we went on to a rich and fascinating experience that required five years of hard work.

Morgen, the same one who approached Kurt Cobain in Montage of Heck, he had privileged access to the vault with thousands of hours of materials (many of them previously unpublished) provided to him by Bowie’s estate. And what if he took advantage of such an archive full of musical and intimate relics. The result is a valuable documentary for what it offers, but also for what it eludes.

There is no reconstruction of his childhood, nor a chronological account, nor an exaltation of his great achievements. Morgen focuses above all on his best times (the ’70s, his stay in Berlin, his collaborations with Brian Eno) and builds a visual patchwork (at times the dizzying editing and the accumulation of so many materials can be a bit overwhelming) in which He is very much enjoyed live and he is heard giving his opinion on issues ranging from art to philosophy, passing through spirituality and energy dimensions. It is that Bowie will be an icon of music, of fashion, of acting, of (bi)sexuality, but above all he was a type of superior intelligence, one of the few with a conceptualization of his work and of the world in general.

Chameleonic and unmatched like few others (“I’m a collector of personalities”, he says), Bowie went and did everything: underworld artist, messiah, rock star, plastic artist, dancer, theater and film actor, junkie, cult of Buddhism and the kabuki, and a long etcetera.

Starman, ​Ziggy Stardust, The White Duke, Blackstar… This London genius left us very soon (1947-2016), but he left a legacy as vast as it was influential. Because Bowie always sought to reinvent himself, to surprise, to explore new languages, to expand art, to capture the quintessence of his time(s). And Morgen exposes these multiple facets in all their variety and dimension, with his own style (a non-narrative, experimental, lysergic, immersive journey) and avoiding each and every one of the common places of contemporary rockumentary. He had a huge challenge ahead of him and he met it with flying colors.

P.S.: The documentary was designed to be seen in IMAX, it includes 48 remastered songs and seeing it on a giant screen and with top-of-the-line sound like the one offered by Cannes was a luxury. Now there is the possibility of seeing it in similar conditions in Argentina. For Bowie fans it is not a minor fact. Surely, then it will come to streaming via HBO Max.

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Reviews: Criticism of “Moonage Daydream”, a documentary by Brett Morgen about David Bowie