It is a documentary film on David Bowie which will not please everyone: “Moonage Daydream”, by the American Brett Morgen, who furiously breaks the codes of the genre, is released in theaters on Wednesday. This 2:20 UFO looks like its director, who had signed “Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck” on the suicide leader of Nirvana and “The Kid Stays in the Picture” on Robert Evans, star producer of New Hollywood in the 70s.
Met by AFP in the spring at the Cannes Film Festival (screening out of competition), Brett Morgen detonates, listening on his phone, and singing over it, a title by Bowie to answer a question, arousing the bewildered looks of festival-goers and tourists seated nearby. The filmmaker also put on a show as he climbed the stairs at the festival’s midnight session, dancing disjointedly as the red carpet soundtrack DJs played “Let’s Dance”, Bowie’s biggest commercial hit.
He also entered the screening room raising his fists like Sylvester Stallone in the cult jogging scene from the first “Rocky”. “Do not expect classic, there is no beginning, middle, end,” he warned before the screening. Forget the traditional formats with experts or relatives of the interpreter of “Heroes” filmed in recording studios.
Here, we only hear and see Bowie speak, with unpublished archives (notably his paintings) which are not distributed chronologically but by themes (the creative process, art and money, etc.). The viewer gets what comes close to an “immersive, planetarium-like experience,” in the words of Brett Morgen, whose pop icon estate has given him access to more than 5 million document files. . More than five years of work were necessary to arrive at the film.
The title of the documentary was not chosen at random. It’s one of the tracks from “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”, a cult record released 50 years ago. “Moonage Daydream” is a cryptic calling card song of Bowie’s most famous double: “I am an alligator/(…)I am the space invader”.
The artist-chameleon has “enormously counted at several periods of my life”, explains the filmmaker. “First at 11-12, 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 needed to be for a Bowie movie yet (laughs).”
When the creator died in 2016, 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”.
Then, the filmmaker, now in his fifties, had a heart attack and fell 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. “Moonage Daydream” sometimes loses its viewer with the musician’s considerations of space and time. But the documentary hits the mark when Bowie reveals parts of his artistic approach. 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 face to face with his contradictions on art and money.
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“Moonage Daydream”, alien documentary on David Bowie
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