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Spotlight on a shy chameleon who became the Da Vinci of pop: KATE MUIR freaks out at a psychedelic banquet of David Bowie footage in Moonage Daydream
Music fans are in not just for a treat but a psychedelic banquet of Bowie footage – after the first documentary authorised by the singer’s estate premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last night.
Moonage Daydream is an immersive ride into David Bowie’s sound and vision, and leaves you gobsmacked by his creative genius over the course of his 50-year career.
While the newsreel footage of events around Bowie is dated, he himself always looks astonishingly ahead of the game. Time has not, as he wrote in Changes, changed him.
‘Do you like girls or boys? It’s confusing these days,’ goes one of his prescient lyrics, and it’s entertaining seeing Bowie in early interviews with worried journalists, clearly unable to get a grip on this bisexual chameleon. He is an alien to them, the Man Who Fell To Earth.
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At first, Bowie appears strangely shy and diffident. The singer’s costumed personas, from Major Tom to Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke and Aladdin Sane, erupt one by one on to the big screen. He admits the characters allow him to hide his loneliness and his true self, which comes into its own towards the end of the picture.
Moonage Daydream was directed, edited and written over five years by Brett Morgen, who previously made a documentary on Kurt Cobain.
Morgen was given access to more than five million assets by the Bowie estate, and incorporates 48 of his songs into the film. It’s the soundtrack to half a century of our lives.
The juxtaposition of visuals is like a drug: Fans bathed in tears, eyeliner and awe as Bowie parades in a crotch-skimming silk kimono; or moments when he splatter-paints in a vest like Jackson Pollock, then slips on an exquisitely tailored pale blue suit. The kaleidoscopic journey heads inevitably towards death in the Blackstar footage, Bowie’s last album.
Neither Bowie’s music nor his face ever grow boring, and his magnetic effect is seen when he rides up an escalator, and the passengers going down turn, one by one, in astonishment.
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Morgen explores Bowie’s musical and artistic inspiration rather than his personal life, although there is a moving moment when, in his mid-40s, Bowie marries Somali-born supermodel Iman, and doesn’t want to leave her to go on tour, saying: ‘How many precious moments am I willing to give away at 45?’
The singer died at 69 in 2016 and refused a funeral or memorial. Moonage Daydream is probably how he would have wanted to be remembered, in electric blue, on the screen: An androgynous Leonardo da Vinci of pop, endlessly creating videos, animations, paintings, lyrics, concerts, albums… and a number of quite bonkers philosophical statements. Enjoy.
Moonage Daydream is in cinemas later this year