My Moonage Daydream
~ on Bowie and Moonage Daydream (2022), “a cinematic odyssey exploring David Bowie’s creative and musical journey. From visionary filmmaker Brett Morgen, and sanctioned by the Bowie estate.”
Bowie was the coolest motherfucker ever.
More than anything else, this cinematic documentary conveys this simple fact. Bowie’s odyssey is told mostly through his own thoughtful words, otherworldly art forms, and bombastic on-stage performances from an illustrious career of creation.
Edited between psychedelic FX and colorful cinemas that Bowie himself watched, Moonage Daydream is a concert movie and, at times, an assault on all the senses. In a good way. Bowie was a poet, but he also loved to attack his audience.
This is a doc of the images and words of Bowie, and an artistic installation in and of itself. Loud and vivid, Moonage Daydream — like its namesake — is a rushing merger between past and future, the music and its meaning, that intrepid mixing of masculine and feminine energies, a vision of Bowie as he was to himself and Bowie as we saw him.
He was a god. A writer, artist, philosopher, rockstar, sex symbol, outsider, aesthete, androgynous superman, messianic alien, and a curious wanderer. Bowie is a man of many faces and of one singular heart.
An individualist and introvert who struggled to relate to others, and yet a performer who shined as bright as a supernova on stage, Bowie was obviously an enigmatic person.
Even beyond the 50 years of great music on the page, Bowie appeared as someone who understood the power he came to wield — and wished to use it as much as he could. He used it to express himself like no other. As an artist, Bowie wanted to be seen, even though much of his music was about isolation.
Moonage Daydream showcases footage from concerts as the narrative crux to tell his story; but there are so many other asides, from TV interviews and his travels and his own movies and self-documentaries. Bowie was a man constantly on-camera, always the centerpiece of one “electric eye” or another throughout his 69 years of life. And yet, even with this film and other documentations of his long and storied life, Bowie’s personal life remains somewhat mysterious.
Bowie called himself a “collector” of ideas and personalities. His art was his own journey unto self-understanding; by donning masks he gave himself the courage to act. Though he certainly came to communicate with his audience, he wanted no primary influence beyond his own soul to seed his creation. Like any auteur, he wanted to make art he liked before anything he thought others might like.
Bowie was a rockstar that used self-expression from collected personalities to make art with joys — light and dark — inside. He was someone utterly committed to bringing his inside to the outside, and inspirited others to do so too through his art. Listen to Bowie’s varied and brilliant music, read the lyrics he wrote — watch this film and hear about his creative process — and you will only begin to acknowledge just how much he succeeded in that regard.
I see Bowie as a man that came as close to “self-actualization” as any human being can. Jane Fonda comes to mind as another, borne of my viewing of her life’s journey as documented by a filmmaker. Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad. Probably Napoleon, Caesar, Alexander, Da Vinci. Geniuses and larger-than-life humans that not only changed the world, but achieved their destiny. In my view, blaspheming or not, Bowie stands among such giants, with a superstardom all his own.
Ziggy Stardust was Bowie’s self-proclaimed “rockstar messiah” and the defining lodestar of his career. Rising up in probably the best decade for music in human history, the 1970s, Ziggy was his most important rogue and is understandably a focus of Morgen’s film.
Bowie’s 1972–73 tour as Ziggy — with “The Spiders From Mars” and a full telling of his immaculate concept album of an alien superstar coming down to Earth to save us from extinction — were preserved through shadowy films with remastered sounds and incredible live audience reactions, mostly young people in a rapture of one kind or another.
I believe Ziggy was created to give the audience a symbol and our world a heroic myth. To strive for, to worship, to tear down. A self-conscious sexgod who wanted to save everyone by destroying himself. Early Bowie was indeed like a supernova, and all those future Bowie’s were lightstars and blackstars. He never stopped creating, though many might say that his sounds and visions peaked in the 70s. He nevertheless had moments across the decades, breaching between the 20th and 21st centuries’ accelerating changes.
Like a mythic chameleon, Bowie evolved with the times — and tried his damndest to envision each worldly year that he lived through inside of his music.
Ultimately, that’s all Moonage Daydream is: a collection of scenes from Bowie’s life as he wanted us to see it. There are narrative throughlines, an evolution of Bowie as he aged and reflected. But mostly, this movie is a mashup of his musical performance — and how it changed. Just as it should be, just as Bowie (and his estate) would have wanted it to be seen.
Was any person photographed as much and so beautifully over the course of their entire life?
Bowie was a performer, first and foremost, thus his story is told in his performances — and in our reactions to them. Lively audience shots during his songs, kids excitedly running into arenas with smiles on their faces, folk waiting outside to glimpse him, chicks and dudes, donning his makeup styles and screeching, or wearing leather jackets with hands calmly dragging cigs — Bowie made music for the next generation, for everyone that sought out life and wanted something more.
Knowing Bowie’s music and some of his life and artistic philosophy certainly enhanced my experience of this film. But I don’t think anyone, even one wholly uninitiated to Bowie’s music and persona, could not be moved. I would like to know Kojima and Lynch’s thoughts on this film.
Something I overheard in the concluding walkout from my packed IMAX showing, from a group of middle-aged women: “You could just feel how much energy that man had!” I can think of no better review for the film.
And ha — as a Bowie head — I feel his best songs weren’t even in this film! Shows how prolific and varied his career was, and my own distinct personal preferences relative to the filmmaker.
To me personally, Bowie’s music is about the strange power of aloneness and being an outsider and how you can express yourself through your singular voice. Fashion and art, music and dreams — the soul yearns to release itself in such ways. How you look can express *you* just as much as how you sing. From “Space Oddity” to “Blackstar,” Bowie’s words were always about the joys and fears of life, the beauty and terror, the shadows and lights within us all.
One thing became clear from this movie, mostly spoken in his own voice: Bowie considered himself a writer. Primarily, or at least he believed that to be his strongest art form. More than the shows, musicianship or his painting or acting. Words and their meaning were his most confident passion.
I feel a kinship toward Bowie. But I think anyone who watches this film or listens deeply to his music would too.
He is an inspiration and a joy to experience. One of my heroes. Drives me to pursue my own passions, forever and ever.
Cannot recommend Moonage Daydream (2022) enough, for fans or not. Bowie is someone worthy of your regard.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Bowie ♾❤️