MOONAGE DAYDREAM: 4 STARS. “an experience, a collage of sound and vision.”
Early on in “Moonage Daydream,” an impressionistic look at the life and work of iconic artist David Bowie now playing in theatres, director Brett Morgen showcases a performance of “Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud,” the B-side to Bowie’s breakthrough single “Space Oddity.”
“You’ll lose me,” he sings, “though I’m always really free.”
It’s a deceptively simple line, written early on in Bowie’s career, that sums up everything that was to come. Bowie led one of the most eclectic show business careers of the last sixty years. He was a seeker, an artist whose work flirted with everything from mime and music to acting and art. He occasionally lost track of commercial concerns, but, like the lyrics suggests, he was never less than a free thinker who valued artistic joy over fame.
Morgen’s film emphasizes the restless spirit that defined David Bowie, but don’t buy a ticket expecting a cradle-to-grave “Behind the Music” style expose. There is no mention of Angela, his first wife, manager Tony Defries or the mountain of cocaine that decorated his nostrils in the 1970s.
Instead, Morgen has created an experience, a collage of sound and vision, that over the two-and-a-quarter-hour running time creates a portrait that doesn’t attempt to define the artist as much as it does to illuminate his ever-changing philosophical mindset. To achieve this Morgen mixes never-before-seen footage and performances, forty remastered songs spanning the singer’s entire career and, as narration, excerpts from fifty years of Bowie interviews.
There are no talking heads or re-enactments, and neither is this one long music video. It’s an ephemeral collection of ideas and images about an enigmatic artist who once said, “I’ve never been sure of my personality. I’m a collector. I collect personalities and ideas.”
Fragmented and almost overwhelming in its sensory effect, “Moonage Daydream” is a compelling portrait with a solid intellectual underpinning, a philosophical edge and an emotional component for diehard Bowie fans. It also has a good beat and you can dance to it… most of it anyway.