TL;DR – This documentary is a psychedelic kaleidoscope, but you should come into it preparing for a marathon rather than a sprint
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film
Warning – This film contains strobing lights in places.
Moonage Daydream Review –
While I have been enjoying this current resurgence of musical biopics, I have connected the most instead when films have dived into the more traditional documentary form to explore someone’s life, like Gurrumul. Today we look at a documentary that might also be an experimental artwork in its own right.
So to set the scene, well, actually, I am not sure that works in this particular situation because this is a film that does not follow a traditional or even non-traditional form of narrative structure. What we get here is a snapshot of different parts of David Bowie’s life, works, and art, as well as what inspired him and how he inspired so many.
The first thing this documentary did, was made me confront what was my relationship with David Bowie? I, of course, knew of who he was, and then there was his role as a musical icon that you would have to be living under a rock not to understand. Then there was the music that sticks in your mind, and there were more songs in this documentary than I had known was from the artist. However, I probably didn’t understand before I arrived the power his legacy has for people. There was a commitment and joyous ecstasy from those in the audience that mirrored some of the lining up for concerts in the 1970s. Or how you could hear the audience sing along throughout.
I might just be showing my naivety at the breath of documentary styles, but I have never experienced something quite like this. I don’t want to say that there was no narrative throughline throughout the film. Because it followed a roughly chronological order, there were themes like a space sequence that tied the disparate parts of the film together. However, there are no talking heads and no new interviews. Instead, the documentary is constructed from past interviews and archival footage from his tours and personal archives.
This construction created a surreal yet personal experience where you are being blasted throughout a technicolour kaleidoscope while also hearing someone’s deeply personal thoughts. While this is all happening, you are led through a wild world of different performance art works and visual art installations while Bowie’s music plays over the top. It creates a powerful narrative space as we explore his life, his works, and the impacts it has had. Though I will say, there were many moments where it felt like the film had drawn to a natural conclusion, only for it to move on to another section. This created some tension in the screening, and given the film’s frenetic visual pace, it got exhausting.
In the end, do we recommend Moonage Daydream? Honestly, the only experience I have had that has come close to this was seeing a laser show at Pacific Science Center in Seattle. It was a wild ride from start to finish, and I think a perfect encapsulation of an artist with such breadth as David Bowie. If you liked Moonage Daydream, I would recommend to you The Sparks Brothers.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Moonage Daydream
Directed by – Brett Morgen
Written by – Brett Morgen
Edited by – Brett Morgen
Production/Distribution Companies – HBO Documentary Films, BMG, Public Road Productions, Live Nation Productions, Neon & Universal Pictures
Starring – David Bowie
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: na; Germany: 0; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 15; United States: PG-13