The Bells of Old Bowie Sound Again
“Moonage Daydream,” the visual and aural extravaganza/movie that opened in September, was not made for me. I am the twisted old long-time fan who gets nauseous chills when people throw out irresponsible phrases like “Berlin Trilogy.” What aspect of David Bowie’s life has not been, like Jesus on Dateline, over-simplified, run backwards, lauded, trashed, and exalted in my time?
But to be clear: I am happy this movie was not made for me. It seems to be aimed at a much more important person: the 13-20 year old. I am completely serious when I say that what we call Generation Z here in the States will be the generation that has to save the world. Unfair as fuck for them, and I must be one of the slackers held to account.
I can say, though, that I am somewhat responsible for “Moonage Daydream,” having removed the Bowie sword from the rock in 1983 by winning “Let’s Dance” from a radio contest. Soon, I was begging my mom for $25 so I could buy a three-record import of “‘Heroes,'” “Low,” and “Lodger,” with the latter quickly becoming my favorite album of his. I backed away slowly from “Low,” not appreciating it until my mid-20s.
Trying to imagine my devoted fandom today if I had seen “Moonage Daydream” at 15 is impossible — we did not do movies like this back then, and not about artists like David Bowie. But I did rent the “Serious Moonlight” tour video in the mid-1980s and I did record D.A. Pennebaker’s “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” off cable television in the early 1990s. Both of these films have large roles in “Daydream.”
In fact, it’s as if the Bowie estate called in every documentary strip of film or set of ones and zeroes that was ever recorded. European television stations followed him around in the 1970s and what they caught is likely in the two-hour plus “Daydream,” often processed with slam-bang effects that requires the IMAX experience. The visuals with Bowie are sources of joyous gratification, as they enhanced the dazzling magnificence of the artist (this is not, you may realize, an objective review).
Although, I have to say “Moonage Daydream” is too long. Perhaps there are market analyses of the younger demographic that told the producers 2:14 was exactly the amount of time needed for the movie, but two hours is a lot of Bowie. Even for me. I am also wondering if the random images that represented Bowie’s myriad of influences made sense to new fans, as they were largely out of context. I know why we saw Lindsay Kemp, silent movies, and stock footage of rocket launches and council housing, but I am so interested in finding out how a 20-year-old reacts to these images. Probably the same way I did — almost obsessive pursuit and study.
DIrector Brett Morgen did uncover a new vein of Bowieology for me to mine when he featured the man talking about his search for God, or, more specifically, his attempt to create A God from pieces of the world. Was Bowie’s supposed quest part of his allure? Ask the young poeple interviewed in the early 1970s before one of his concerts. They were certain they had discocvered something alien but alluring, that feverish set-up that sparks art, love, and momentum, so we may move ever forward.