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MOONAGE DAYDREAM (Brett Morgen, 2022) Documentary on David Bowie

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  • MOONAGE DAYDREAM (Brett Morgen, 2022) Documentary on David Bowie

    This just VOD. It's fantastic. My full take:

    The title of Brett Morgen's immersive MOONAGE DAYDREAM tips the viewer off that this is going to be a woozy, spacey mind-trip. Morgen immediately wallops the audience with a dizzying visual montage with various film clips from everything from movies like METROPOLIS and THIS ISLAND EARTH to assorted ephemera; It's scored with mix of songs and sound effects. Morgen calls these “Musical mash-ups”, of which there are several (be forewarned those susceptible to sensory overload). It opens with the first of David Bowie's personas - the Space Oddity/Major Tom/Ziggy.

    While not as frenetic as the Mash-ups, the bulk of the Documentary is similarly intense. There are no captions labeling the clips or songs. One never even sees a single record jacket, album cover or CD case. It's somewhat chronological, but, never tied down by a specific time or era. Clips from Bowie's public career are interspersed at will with private footage and artifacts including his vast personal artwork - much of it never having been seen before. One minute Ziggy and the Spider's From Mars are on stage in concert, the next, a fast-forward to home movies of Bowie years later on holiday in Asia -- and then it can wind backwards to some childhood memory.

    It's a heady mix, but what ties it together are a series of interviews Bowie gave over the decades. The impression many have of Bowie is one of an ever-changing artist who used his evolving identities to completely mask the man inside. Remarkably these audio, video and film clips show that Bowie was often quite open about why he always seemed to be putting on an “act”. He was his own canvas - often involving complete transformations with makeup, hair and clothing. He didn't mind revealing it to his fans. He reveled in it. His most successful period commercially was in the 80s when he let the facade down and was 'just' a pop star. The implication here is that this was Bowie almost taking a break from himself. From his constant re-invention.

    Morgen's method has a hypnotic effect. Even if he intransigently refuses to provide full biographical details, Morgen does give a true sense of a lifetime. A life lived to the fullest The barrage of sound and vision manages to give the illusion of events and experiences that Bowie lived through even if the concentration is mainly on his work of the 70s and 80s. It's as if Morgen is inviting to see what Bowie saw from his eyes. It's asks a lot of the viewer. VH1's Behind The Music, this ain't.

    Not everything works here. Some of the clips do become repetitive. The strong focus on just two decades of Bowie's career does leave out his early pre-fame musical work, and his life in the 90s and beyond is given short-shrift. However, the overall effect is quite persuasive. One has to be committed to Bowie to fully appreciate what Morgen has achieved here - and, it's both considerable and a great tribute to one of rock's greatest icons. One of the finest examinations of a musician on film.

  • #2
    To say that we disagree will be an understatement haha. I believe my much shorter take was "I respect Bowie too much as an artist to give this piece of crap any more than a nod for having some interesting footage".

    This is, much like Morgen's "Montage of Heck", the result of a singular vision that could not possibly appeal to the masses.

    if you're a Bowie fan(atic) you'll likely appreciate the footage. If you're casually interested and thought that this doc was going to provide an educational moment or germinate some interest in it's subject in the non-believers, look elsewhere.

    This is visual masturbation, courtesy of having access to a monster archive of footage.

    I'm nuts about Bowie, I'm nuts about Nirvana, amazing that two documentaries on favourite musicians could fall so short of the mark.

    "Even if he intransigently refuses to provide full biographical details"

    Even *some* biographical details would be rad. Total mess of a film, a wasted opportunity, and another (after Montage of Heck) of Morgen's films that make me wonder why he gets such wonderful opportunities when he does nothing with them.

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    • #3
      No doubt we disagree. I do note in my piece that MOONAGE isn't for those expecting a Behind The Music type straightforward Doc (nor, the two fine FIVE YEARS Bowie films that have been made).

      Brett Morgen gets these opportunities because his Docs have been artistically and commercially successful. His movies have won and been nominated for dozens and dozens of awards and do well at the box office for a Documentary (including MOONAGE which even got Imax showings). JANE, THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE, CHICAGO 10 - all successful.

      See the pair of FIVE YEARS docs on Bowie by all means, but, if you want great cinema as well as biography, MOONAGE DAYDREAM is as good as it gets.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by JoeS View Post
        No doubt we disagree. I do note in my piece that MOONAGE isn't for those expecting a Behind The Music type straightforward Doc (nor, the two fine FIVE YEARS Bowie films that have been made).

        Brett Morgen gets these opportunities because his Docs have been artistically and commercially successful. His movies have won and been nominated for dozens and dozens of awards and do well at the box office for a Documentary (including MOONAGE which even got Imax showings). JANE, THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE, CHICAGO 10 - all successful.

        See the pair of FIVE YEARS docs on Bowie by all means, but, if you want great cinema as well as biography, MOONAGE DAYDREAM is as good as it gets.
        I love the two FIVE YEARS docs and recommend them regularly; I do want to clarify that I don't require "Behind the Music" simplicity lol, but let's say at this point that Morgen is not a filmmaker I connect with. Although I did quite enjoy Crossfire Hurricane and was entertained by Chicago 10.

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        • #5
          Saw this in IMAX. Should have taken an edible first.

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