Thursday, July 18, 2024

Movie Review: ‘Moonage Daydream’ Somehow Captures Bowie by Bowie

Director: Brett Morgen

Writer: Brett Morgen

Stars: David Bowie

Synopsis: A cinematic odyssey exploring David Bowie’s creative and musical journey. From visionary filmmaker Brett Morgen, and sanctioned by the Bowie estate.

There’s no proper way to describe Brett Morgen’s Moonage Daydream. For those who are looking for a conventional musical documentary involving talking heads recollecting about the life of the artist du jour, alternating between archival footage recapping the person’s life, this is not the movie for you. In fact, someone sitting next to me was complaining about how “loud” and “disjointed” it was when the credits rolled. But this is not a film where you’ll learn about Bowie. Plenty of documents have recollected Bowie’s life in a didactic fashion (books, movies, tv specials, the works). So it feels refreshing to have a movie that is the complete polar opposite of that. 

Morgen’s film doesn’t care about conformity or didactism—it’s instead the perfect encapsulation of who Bowie was as an artist, and as a person: it’s as excessive, torturous, ebullient, conflicted, and loud as the man ever was. It never tries to answer questions on Bowie that guided his artistic vision, but instead peers into his ever-conflicted and growing mind to attempt to give audiences an idea of what his soul was. That type of music documentary is far more interesting than the traditional “talking heads” drivel that have been plaguing the artform for decades. 

Here’s a movie that openly wants you to feel Bowie, instead of learning bits of information about him. And in that regard, it’s the most complete document of his life ever put on film, and a far more accomplished portrait of the person than any other type of documentary that would’ve been made in his place. It’s a must-see in IMAX: the colors overwhelm your eyes, while its 12.0 sound mix (!) will literally blow the roof off the place. This type of in-your-face filmmaking, once again, will not be for everyone. However, Morgen signals to the audience early on that they should let themselves melt away and follow the movie’s pace, which is no pace. 

Like Bowie’s life, it’s all over the place. Fragments of his late life intertwine his early days as a performer, while clips of Nosferatu, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Metropolis, among many movies are peppered throughout. At the same time, alternate versions of Bowie’s greatest songs are blasted through speakers while explosion sounds are also heard. It’s overwhelming, perhaps too overwhelming. But amidst all the visual and aural noise thrown at the viewer, there’s something so pure about seeing Bowie at his prime on an IMAX screen, doing what he loves to do best—entertain. 

One leaves Moonage Daydream with their eyes and ears bursting with excitement. It’s not your typical documentary, and the lesssaid about the movie, the better. It’s a rapturous experience to witness in IMAX, a festival of colors and sound that ultimately amalgamates itself as the perfect time capsule of Bowie’s messy but always moving life. The film ultimately becomes a purely cathartic and life-affirming experience that every eye and ear needs to experience on the most giant screen possible. Treat yourself, for Bowie’s sake, and dance. 


Grade: A+


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