"The more normal and popular Bowie got the more conventional and boring he became..."

Bowie Doc Deep Dives Into His Life

(102022) Moonage Daydream is an unusual music documentary about the late, great David Bowie that is far less reliant on the use of talking heads (not the band) to shed light on its larger-than-life subject, than most music docs. The film’s title is taken from a song off Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Bowie’s most celebrated album. The song introduced Bowie’s most famous character, Ziggy Stardust, the androgynous bisexual astronaut from outer space who wants to save the world but is eventually killed by his followers. The film discusses that landmark recording as well as many other songs and albums that make up Bowie’s oeuvre.

The film was directed and written by Brett Morgan, who has proved to be a skillful and more than competent documentarian. He previously did The Kid Stays in the Picture, Chicago 7 (about the famous anti-Vietnam War activists), Crossfire Hurricane (about the Rolling Stones) and Jane (about naturalist Jane Goodall). His best film is probably Kurt Cobain: Mountain of Heck about the suicidal junkie singer/songwriter who led Nirvana and popularized the grunge movement. Like that film we see an artist through bits and pieces of recorded material, but I felt the other film worked a little better and was more illuminating.

Moonlight Daydream includes film footage of the chameleon like Bowie in many of his incarnations including Ziggy, the thin white duke, his pirate period, and his brief clown phase. The film includes footage from concerts, clips from his TV appearances (including his brilliant SNL appearance), and even scenes from the films he acted in. He was surprisingly good often playing odd parts in films as disparate films such as the Goblin King in Labyrinth. Pontius Pilot in Last Temptation of Christ, a vampire in The Hunger and Andy Warhol in Basquiat.

This film examines the life of Bowie in a not always chronological fashion and prefers to let the artist speak for himself rather than relying heavily on interviews with those who knew him including the collaborators. The main drawback to this approach is that although Bowie was heavily influenced by his peers, influences and collaborators including Marc Bolan (the real father of glam), Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Klaus Nomi, Robert Fripp, Andy Warhol, and Anthony Newley, the film ignores or hardly mentions most of these figures, although his collaborator in the Berlin trilogy, Brian Eno is discussed. Because of this the film sometimes seems to wrongly suggest that Bowie came out of a vacuum. What is worse is that his first marriage to Angie Barnett is not mentioned at all, and she was one of the biggest influences on his early image and music and she helped steer him into androgyny and glam. But I guess that the film can’t be all things to everyone and during its 140 minutes it covers lots of ground.

The bulk of the film concentrates on his glory period (from 1970-80) in which Bowie did most of his experimental work and went from one triumph to another as well as his inevitable artistic decline in the 80s which seemed to coincide with the time, he had his greatest commercial success in America. The more normal and more popular Bowie got the more conventional and boring he became which even he partially admits in the film.

However much of this material has been widely covered already so for me the most interesting stuff in the film deals his last recording Dark Star, which surprisingly was one of his best and most disturbing in decades. Perhaps because he knew he was going to die and confronted to fact in his songs.

Also fascinating is the segment in which Bowie discusses his outlook on the modern world. Bowie believed that contemporary perceive everything in fragments so to create a modern music that reflects the world it also necessary to reflect the world’s fragmentation. The film also tries to do this with its use of quick cuts. One of the most memorable pieces of footage is when a bunch of Bowie fans that adopted his dress style cry when they cannot touch his hand.

What the film does offer that the other Bowie docs lack (and there have been quite a few since he died) is the focus on his troubled personal and family life. His mentally ill brother struggled mightily to control his schizophrenia, and David was afraid he would end up going in the same direction. Also, in interviews Bowie tells us how he never really felt love from his parents, and it is possible that he tried to make up for this vacuum by filling his life with his multimedia artistic career-besides being an actor and singer Bowie also painted.

Although the film is worth seeing for both Bowie fanatics and casual fans (although it offers less for the fanatics) it is not worth the outrageous cost of $17.00 that some theatres are charging for IMAX screenings of the film. Viewers would be better off streaming it or seeing it on a normal screen that is unenhanced.

Directed & Written by:    Brett Morgan
Starring:    Razvan Lutac, Mirela Neag, Catalin Tolontan
Released:    09/16/22 (USA)
Length:    140 minutes
Rating:    Rated PG-13 for some sexual images/nudity, brief
 strong language and smoking.
Available On:    limited release in local theatres

For more writings by Vittorio Carli go to and His latest book "Tape Worm Salad with Olive Oil for Extra Flavor" is also available.

MOONAGE DAYDREAM © 2022 Live Nation Productions
All Rights Reserved

Review © 2023 Alternate Reality, Inc.


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