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Moonage Daydream ★★★★★



Directed: Brett Morgen

Released: September 23rd, 2022 (UK)

David Bowie was one of the most enigmatic musicians in pop history, a true rock n roll chameleon constantly changing his persona. Even after he died in 2016, it’s hard to know who the true Bowie was, but we are left with an unrivalled body of work that straddles many genres. Moonage Daydream, the latest film from acclaimed documentarian Brett Morgen behind Rolling Stones documentary Crossfire Hurricane and Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, covers large swathes of Bowie’s career, interpolating concert footage, music videos, film recordings and archive interviews with the man himself to create a truly breathtaking visual spectacle that feels a fitting tribute to a musician of Bowie’s stature.

Seamlessly blending the material is nothing short of stratospheric, pulling from across his career moving footage in and out of sequence to tell a continuous story without the usual interviews with contemporaries found in Talking Head documentaries. It’s’ easy to tell that this is a passion project for Morgen and one he has dedicated much of the last seven years to with the blessing of Bowie’s family and estate, making this feel a comprehensive and loving film that is lengthy at 2 hrs 20 but never outstays its welcome.

Some of the performances are genuinely spectacle helping to bridge various facets of Bowie’s career and his many personas, including Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke and seeing the footage on the big screen somehow recaptured the glory of his early touring years, particularly with his backing band, the spiders from mars. A live version of Jean Genie moulding parts of The Beatles Love Me Do is spectacular. At the same time, there is a stunning merging of the original Space Oddity recording with a solo acoustic rendition.

The interviews with Bowie show his growing maturity and security across the years from someone shy and hiding behind his characters to someone appreciative of the joys of life and finding new meaning in his marriage to Iman. These portraits show his understanding of the human condition and philosophical outlook on everything from art to religion and the different places he lived from London to a short stint in LA and his radically creative rebirth with Brian Eno in Berlin. The film helps unpack some of his creative processes but still leaves much of his character mysterious, perhaps helping to deepen the mystique around some of his work.

The visuals and the glorious sonic landscape help set this apart from other documentaries of their type and feel like a joyous celebration of a colourful and cinematic life bringing in footage from Bowie’s films The Man Who Fell To Earth and Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence. The restoration of much of the footage makes it a breathtaking film to look at, with some stunning animation that flows wonderfully accompanied by some of Bowie’s best-loved tunes.

The focus on live performance over the studio is an excellent showcase for Bowie’s versatility as an artist and how he could rework many of his hits in a live setting and perhaps the arena where he best manifested his brilliance. This is observed through footage of many of his adoring fans at various points in his career queuing to get tickets or attend gigs, expressing their admiration for him as an artist.

Moonage Daydream is a spectacular film that will be sure to please both hardcore and casual Bowie fans, delivering a bombastic visual and sonic treat that ranks among the most impressive music documentaries in recent memory. Brett Morgen has painstakingly amalgamated footage from across Bowie’s career that slots together wonderfully and is a film as wonderfully idiosyncratic as its subject matter. It shows an understanding of Bowie as a person and an artist, shining a light on his creative process while leaving room for further questions. The concert footage, in particular, sounds genuinely out of this world, showing the Starman at his peak and delivering what may come to be the definitive Bowie documentary.

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