The Brett Morgan documentary artistically discusses David Bowie's music and creativity throughout his career.
By Natalie Metcalf, Valley Life Editor
“Moonage Daydream” enraptures audiences with David Bowie’s sound and vision, through his various albums, portraits, sculptures and acting.
The film transcends normal documentary standards, combining footage from his life and live concerts. “Moonage Daydream” was written, directed and produced by Brett Morgan –– who co-directed “The Kid Stays in the Picture” (2002). Both documentaries are similar in editing and structure. Rather than combining interviews with people who knew Bowie, Morgan focuses on the artist himself with recorded footage from the singer’s life and clips from his music videos. Bowie fans will enjoy the film, as familiar songs such as “Life on Mars?” “Ashes to Ashes,” “All the Young Dudes” and “Sound and Vision” –– just to name a few –– filled the theater.
The documentary spends most of the two-hour and 17-minute run time on “Hunky Dory” (1971), “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” (1972), “Aladdin Sane” (1973), “Pinups” (1973) and “Diamond Dogs” (1974). The tone changes from 70’s glam rock to holographic ’80s, as an exciting musical number of “Let’s Dance” pumps up audiences.
The beginning of the film is dedicated to Bowie’s sexuality, as in the early 1970’s he broke social norms by wearing makeup, dresses, jewelry and dying his hair. From the beginning of his career, Bowie was open about his bisexuality. Footage from old interviews makes the artist’s story and life personal. Audiences will be moved, as Bowie lives his life on his own terms.
Remastered footage from the 1960s-90s made the film even more realistic. Fans of the artist will become emotional, seeing packed stadiums singing along with Bowie.
As detailed as the documentary is, the middle of the film is redundant and better editing could have been made to tighten up the film. Audiences see the highs and the lows of Bowie’s life, which set up the structure for the documentary in the beginning. Yet towards the end, it becomes repetitive.
But as the film unfolds, audience members learn about the singer through wise words by Bowie himself. During the film, Bowie had many epiphanies about searching the globe for art. For example, Bowie traveled from LA to Germany and later in his life traveled to Japan –– in order to find a new sound and perspective for his music. He never wanted to “repeat the same note twice.” The singer believed searching and collecting was the key to great art. When writing his music Bowie would “cut up pieces of paper” and organize the lyrics accordingly.
“Moonage Daydream” goes from zero to 100 in a matter of minutes, as serious discussions of mental illness turn into retro–chrome colored musical numbers. The film is as artistic and avant-garde as Bowie was in his career. Signs of schizophrenia were shown in Bowie’s family, justifying the artistic choice to give the film extreme emotional highs and lows.
The directing stands out the most in the film, as Morgan paints Bowie in a realistic light. He is not the spectacle everyone assumes he is. Bowie is merely an artist, who is a private human being. During his Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane era, he used himself as a canvas making people think of him as a spectacle. Yet later in his life, Bowie showcased his personal side.
“Moonage Daydream” will give audiences the message that life is short. Themes of time and other worlds are mentioned throughout the film. In 2016, Bowie died two days before the release of his last album “Blackstar.” He was 69.