Opening 15 Sep 2022
The title Moonage Daydream comes from a song composed by David Bowie in 1971. It refers to outer space with which David Bowie identified throughout his life. Director Brett Morgen follows David Bowie’s his career in music, art, and acting, always returning to him singing on stage. We see Bowie looking like a hippie with dark hair, or a businessman in a suit and a hat with blond hair, or with red hair or lipstick and blue eye shadow or wearing a skirt or taking on his alternative role of Ziggy Stardust. He is “always looking for himself” as the scenes are strewn between artistic backgrounds, again often seeming to appear from outer space. We learn that Bowie was talented in playing the piano as well as other instruments such as the saxophone. He acted on stage and in film, He appreciated art, painting excellent pictures himself, as well as assembling a valuable collection. He was a sculptor and also worked in cinematography. Every second of the film is an impression of Bowie, accompanied by text, spoken by Bowie himself with comments such as “I collect personalities and ideas” or “What’s my life’s essential question?” We never really learn real facts, e.g., about his relationships, wives, children, family, etc., except that his half-brother Terry influenced him by introducing new ideas. We learn that this British singer, born in London in 1947, also lived in New York City, Los Angeles, West Berlin, and Switzerland, but “never bought a house.” He smokes constantly, but there is no mention of an addiction to drugs.
Director Brett Morgen was the first person to receive thousands of archives from Bowie’s family (i.e., contrary to the maker of a biopic about Bowie called Stardust, from 2020, who received nothing). Brett Morgen worked with the archives for four years, then concentrated another 18 months on the sound, animation and colors. Morgen said, “Bowie learned to run before he learned to walk.” David Bowie sings over 50 songs most of which were also composed by him. It is the exact opposite of the recent film Elvis (2022) about Presley, with whom he shared a birthday, both born on August 8, with Bowie being 12 years younger. In Elvis we receive a factual biography. In Moonage Daydream we receive impressions underscored by art images. Almost all of the commentary is original David Bowie. He was probably the most important musician in the 20th century, influencing and changing styles. I recommend that you research facts about the life of Bowie before seeing the film. Prior knowledge of his biography will definitely not be a spoiler, but will help sort out the impressions that we experience during these 140 minutes. Moonage Daydream premiered at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival. (Becky Tan)