Cannes: Bowie, the documentary that came from elsewhere

(AFP) – “Do not expect classic, there is no beginning, middle, end”: “Moonage Daydream” by Brett Morgen, already director of a documentary on Kurt Cobain, breaks the rules of the genre around David Bowie.

Forget the classic formats with experts or relatives of the interpreter of “Heroes” filmed in recording studios. Here, we only hear and see David Bowie speaking, with unpublished archives that are not divided chronologically but by themes (the creative process, art and money, etc.).

Synthetic images have been specially created to punctuate the chapters, playing on space and the stars. Obviously for an artist who had created the astronaut character of Major Tom from his song “Space Oddity”.

Between these visuals and 48 remastered songs by the interpreter of “Let’s Dance”, the viewer experiences what comes close to an “immersive experience, like in a planetarium”, in the words of Brett Morgen, met by AFP at the 75th Cannes Film Festival where this documentary is presented out of competition.

This American, who had signed “Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck”, of more traditional invoice, delivers on an exalted tone. This work took him five years and is the first of its kind authorized by Bowie’s heirs since his disappearance in 2016. They let Morgen open the treasure chests.

– Archives preserved –

The singer of “Aladdin Sane” and the actor of “The man who came from elsewhere” has “enormously counted at several periods of my life”, explains the filmmaker. “First at 11-12 years old, in puberty, when I discovered it, it was powerful at a time when I wanted to be me, not my parents”.

He then met him in the 2000s for a project. “It wasn’t the time for him, thank God, because I wasn’t where I was supposed to be for a Bowie movie yet (laughs).” When the creator of Ziggy Stardust died, he was ready, in particular, to blow up the frame of the documentary.

One of the people in charge of Bowie’s legacy confided to him “that David collected and preserved his archives”. “Not for traditional work, but more for an immersive dive like the one I was aiming for”.

And then Morgen (53 years old today) has a heart attack and falls into a coma. Restored, “the philosophy, the words, the art of Bowie” resonated more than ever in him.

“Death, reincarnation, Bowie was talking about it from the start, like in the song + Silly Boy Blue +”, he insists. He takes out his phone and plays 20 seconds of this song, drawing a parallel with the phrasing of “Blackstar”, the title track of the Briton’s final album, which also talks about death and the legacy to be left through the creation.

– Contradictions –

“Moonage Daydream” (a track from “The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust…”) focuses on the life appetites of an artist with 1,000 faces. The most interesting is not the opening part with the musician’s considerations on space and time.

The documentary hits the mark when we see the creator cut out bits of sentences on paper to randomly assemble them and give flesh to his songs, which had often been written but not shown.

We also see images of Jeff Beck, guitarist of the Yardbirds, playing alongside Bowie on stage. One might have feared a hagiography controlled by the rights holders. But the images of a Bowie with hollow cheeks and insistent sniffles testify to the dark periods of addiction.

And a sequence with a famous soda, sponsor of a tour and at the origin of an advertisement with Bowie and Tina Turner, puts the artist in front of his contradictions on art and money.

A significant passage also allows us to appreciate the talents of painter Bowie and we recognize on the canvases the singer Iggy Pop, a close friend.

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Cannes: Bowie, the documentary that came from elsewhere

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