“I always had the feeling that I was a vehicle for something else, but I never really managed to understand what it was. In my opinion, everyone experiences this feeling sooner or later. Everyone, at a certain point in their life, begins to feel that they are not exhausted in themselves ». David Bowie, January 27, 1973.
Bowie, due to his stateless and provocative nature, wanted to subvert his time and imagine it with new forms, sounds and images, constantly capturing the best that was happening in the undergrowth of popular culture. Thus satisfying his voracity for culture and art for each stage of his artistic adventure, David Bowie at the same time made millions of fans entertain, move, maddening, especially over the course of two decades (the 70s and 80s).
Moonage Daydream: a summa of the art of the twentieth century
See Moonage Daydream it is a satisfying and formative operation. If we were to explain the man of the late twentieth century with beauty and art, a careful vision of this film can undoubtedly help us. In addition, of course, to having in two hours and twenty minutes the best story of the artistic history of the great English performer.
In Moonage Daydream not only David Bowie’s songs and performances dominate but also his thinking, his cultural background. To support it, the director made use of many images from films from the last century. Here are just a few names from the long list of fished out films, you will understand why Moonage Daydream it is also a story from the last century: Journey to the Moon (1902) by Georges Méliès, Nosferatu the vampire (’22) by FW Murnau, A Chien Andalou (’29) by Luis Buñuel, Frankenstein (’31) by James Whale, Ivan the Terrible (’44) by Sergei Eisenstein, up to 2001: A Space Odyssey (’68) and Clockwork Orange (’71) by Stanley Kubrick, The empire of the senses (’76) by Nagisa Ōshima, Johnny Mnemonic (’95) by Robert Longo e Lola runs (’98) by Tom Tykwer.
Imagined by director Brett Morgen – it’s his Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck – as an “audiovisual space odyssey” (certainly a reference to the science fiction impulses that David Bowie always had), Moonage Daydream manages to enter the great enigmatic legacy of the artist.
The making of the film
The underlying structure of Moonage Daydream is simple. There is a meticulous collection of audio and video interviews made by Bowie from the 70s until his death, a meticulous assembly of unpublished and unpublished images, clips of interviews on British and American TV (where the White Duke is hilariously ironic in front of the the dominant respectability of the conductors; an example above all, the Dick Cavett Show of 1974). All “sewn” with original visuals of excellent quality. Fortunately, nothing talking heads (the arrogant and now annoying video comments of people always shot with the same type of shot). And we hope that in Italy too we will stop using this tiring narrative process.
But if the process seems simple overall, it really does the construction of the documentary took a lot of time. In 2018, Morgen was granted unprecedented access to Bowie’s archives. These include materials that trace his entire life, including an extensive catalog of unpublished films and also a personal collection of his artwork and his poems. So in the end it took Morgen four years to assemble the film and another 18 months to design soundscapes, animations and palette of colors.
Of course, the sound in the IMAX rooms is magnificent. For the film, the sound team, along with Tony Visconti – Bowie’s longtime collaborator, friend and music producer – and Paul Massey (who had worked for Bohemian Rhapsody), already an Academy Award winner, remixed and translated Bowie’s originals for a theatrical setting presented in 12.0, 5.0, Dolby Atmos, and 7.1 / 5.1.
An intense experience
I was moved to see Bowie singing Heroes (a “strange” version) at Earls Court, London, the first leg of the return to Europe after the American exile. I would have danced while the Duke swayed Elvis-style up Let’s Dance captured one of his ocean-going concerts from the early 1980s. I don’t know what I would have given to see Ziggy lick Mick Ronson’s guitar.
I saw Bowie only once, but fortunately very close, at the Teatro Smeraldo in Milan with the horrible Tin Machine. Even today I bitterly regret never having gone to a live of him when he was alive. But Moonage Daydream consoled me. And, if you have not “taught” me anything new about the Maestro, you have been able to give very strong emotions and make it clear that even today the short century has been very intense.