Moonage Daydream was not at all what I expected. I expected a documentary. What I got was an explosion of sound and vision, like a montage. This is not to say I was disappointed. As a lifelong fan of David Bowie, I’ve come to expect the unexpected. This played like what I always imagine when, after a near-death experience, people say they “saw their lives flash before their eyes.” But this flash lasted for 2½ hours.
The only narration is the disembodied voice of Bowie. One of the snippets used is, “Chaos and fragmentation [have always] been my throughline,” and this is an ample summation of the proceedings.
I am told that Duncan Jones (AKA Zowie Bowie) was originally set to put this film together but found himself unable to sufficiently distance himself from the subject. Enter Brett Morgen, an accomplished documentarian, who somehow managed to give the chaos and fragmentation a framework to hang onto. The film succeeds as a master class in editing and dense, abstract storytelling.
Fans are treated to some never-before-seen (and rarely seen) performance footage, offering glimpses of various personas Bowie toyed with over the years. It’s as though he was presaging the concept of gender fluidity long before the term was coined. The only word bandied about at the time was “androgyny.”
He dabbled in other art forms, like acting and painting, and seemed to have developed considerable skills in all of them. However, when asked why he wasn’t showing his paintings in public, he said it was because they were “too personal.” Maybe dressing himself as different characters was a way of protecting his true self from public scrutiny, or maybe it was a series of experiments to uncover and know his true self.
I can’t begin to guess whether this movie will birth any new Bowie fans, but for the already converted, it’s an astonishingly deft and revealing audiovisual portrait of the artist.
Review by Chris Diestler
KBAC Station Manager
This article was posted by Cheryl Fallstead