A new film about David Bowie "Moonage Daydream" has been released in Europe. It is assembled from both known and previously unpublished materials that director Brett Morgen had at his disposal. Boris Barabanov believes that Moonage Daydream is not a documentary, but a grandiose immersive installation.
Brett Morgen's Moonage Daydream comes out when everything has been said about David Bowie, in all genres. In 2021, Gabriel Range's biopic David Bowie was on screen. The man from the star”, recognized as a failure, it seems, by everyone. And long before that, there was the spectacular Velvet Goldmine by Todd Haynes, where Bowie was present, although he was not called by his real name. Many documentaries have been made, the best of which are BBC journalist Francis Whately's trilogy Five Years, In Search of Glory and The Last Five Years. There was the musical “Lazarus”, on which the singer managed to work during his lifetime, and the grandiose touring exposition “David Bowie Is”, which sets the standards for an “exhibition about a star”. What can we say about the numerous books, biographies, comics and photo albums. Why do we need another movie?
And it is, and it goes to the best sessions, not in specialized documentary cinema halls, but in ordinary cinemas. For two hours and twenty minutes, people stare at the screen without stopping, although this is far from a biopic in the spirit of Bohemian Rhapsody or Elvis, and even, by and large, not a documentary. Moonage Daydream is a massively distributed product from the majors BMG, HBO, and Live Nation, with a big-screen pass for which it was an important fact: it was the first Bowie film to be endorsed by his heirs.
As conceived by Morgen, the film should not have included the figure of the author at all. No narration or talking heads, just Bowie's own voice taken from interviews and other audio material. No formal milestones or dates, or even album covers. The tape, of course, is divided into “eras”, but this division is not formalized, and Morgen, who received the entire video heritage of the singer, including previously unpublished frames from 16 mm and 35 mm films, allowed himself to move freely in time. In the chapter on Bowie's early work, he used frames from later clips, and placed the footage of his first exercises in pantomime in the context of world culture, in a series of recognizable characters of the 20th century.
Morgen, among other things, is the author of the film about The Rolling Stones "Crossing Hurricane", as well as the tape "Kurt Cobain: Damn Montage". In the Moonage Daydream project, he is not only a director, but also a screenwriter and editor, and his last quality turns out to be the most important. Morgen not only mixed video footage, but also worked with sound.
Formally, the musical producer of the film was the legendary Tony Visconti, who recorded 11 albums with David Bowie. Morgen, among other things, is listed as the "author of musical mashups." Here you can draw a parallel with Baz Luhrmann's Elvis, which is all one continuous mashup. But Moonage Daydream doesn't have modern sounds. Everything that we hear in different combinations is taken from the original tapes. With studio and live recordings at his disposal, Morgen created a multi-layered acoustic fabric that, for example, against the backdrop of a long instrumental solo from a show from the Ziggy Stardust era, Bowie's low, mesmerizing voice, recorded clearly later, is a monologue from the 1998 film " The Mystery of Mr. Rice. Morgen often does this in the film, and the pieces of this puzzle, scattered over the speakers of the cinema, give the viewer the feeling that Bowie surrounded him from all sides.
There are no facts in the Moonage Daydream movie that would not be familiar to fans of the musician, but rare or completely unknown footage creates the feeling of a new story. Here, during the signing of autographs after the concert, Bowie kisses a fan, touching her lips to her lips, which are behind the bars of the fence. Here is a fragment of his training with a boxing coach. Here is a monologue from the Broadway play The Elephant Man. Here's the harmonica solo from The Beatles' "Love Me Do" that Bowie plays during his own "The Jean Genie."
The thoughtful sayings of the film's hero, which Morgen enthusiastically strings to music, sometimes begin to tire, it's even surprising that demotivators for social networks are not made of them. But there are no empty phrases among them. On the contrary, the speed of reaction and the accuracy of the wording is amazing. "Could you articulate a message for our viewers?" asks a journalist in a Japanese TV studio. “Don’t waste a minute,” the artist replies.
It is hard not to be amazed at his foresight when he calls “chaos and fragmentation” the two main characteristics of civilization both in the 20th and in the 21st century (today he would probably use the term “atomization”). Bowie knew a lot about our world, but he didn’t have time to save it, or maybe he didn’t want to. After all, his world still remained safe and sound.