Thursday, September 22, 2022

Brett Morgen's "Moonage Daydream" at SIFF Cinema Sept 23 - Oct 20 | "The Final Mysteries of David Bowie’s Blackstar: Elvis, Crowley, and The Villa of Ormen" | The Guardian

Smashing onto screens at this year's Cannes, Brett Morgen's "Glorious, Shapeshifting Eulogy to David Bowie", comes to domestic theaters this month and regionally at SIFF Cinema Egyptian. Consciously averting the documentary format, Morgen's intimate montage of the uniquely influential artist celebrates his career, creativity, and decades of restless self discovery. Given unprecedented access to Bowie's personal archives, "Moonage Daydream" takes a cue from Bowie's own childhood wonder at the "Sound and Vision" experiences of early rock and roll washing over the artist as a young man. Through an assembly of audio-visual collage, this archive of five million items, including paintings, drawings, recordings, photographs, films, and journals, were structured into an experiential cinematic odyssey. The result is a sensory "Tripping David Bowie's Sound and Light Fantastic", as the musical and spiritual journey of the artist's life, featuring Bowie's own narration. Tony Visconti, who spent much of Bowie's career as recording producer, recently completed the massive retrospective box sets for Parlophone, which include "Five Years (1969–1973)", "Who Can I Be Now? (1974–1976)", "A New Career in a New Town (1977–1982)", "Loving the Alien (1983–1988)", and "Brilliant Adventure (1992–2001)", serves as the film's musical director, with a team including Paul Massey, and meticulous musical edits and collage throughout by Morgen. The ensuing audio-visual experience, as described by Robert Daniels, for is, "a bombastic, overstimulating, poignant, life-affirming, and risk-taking summation of the artist's ethos and maturation as a person. In short, 'Moonage Daydream' is a film David Bowie would've proudly made." The amassed effect of this "David Bowie Documentary as Dynamic as the Man Himself" is a glorious celebratory montage of archive material, live performance footage, Bowie’s experimental video art and paintings, movie and stage work, and interviews that run the spectrum from the philosophical and revealingly personal, to humorously self-deprecating.

Morgen suggests that David Bowie’s first great period came to an end with the 1970s, but that his intellectual curiosity and creativity continued to have something more than a little heroic and magnificent to it as the years went by. And perhaps his following adventures in other art forms, like playing the "Elephant Man" on stage was slightly misjudged in that Bowie had already absorbed all these things, and was drawing on their energy in his rock persona. His film performances in the late 1970s and early 80s, in Nicolas Roeg's "The Man Who Fell to Earth", Tony Scott's "The Hunger", and Nagisa Oshima's "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence" led into his era of super stardom, following the 1983 international pop hit "Let's Dance". The ensuing decade, while delivering massive success and arena-filling performances, where as Bowie describes it in "Moonage Daydream", a vast expanse of uncultivated and barren rewards for the artist. What Morgen shows next, through personal video documentary, home recordings and travel footage is the superstar become "bohemian vagabond" as Bowie entered into a period of restless international travel and personal rediscovery. In one of his most startling and unexpected transformations, (of many), David Bowie reemerged into the 1990s with a set of creative collaborations that directly engaged with the zeitgeist. Enlisting artists and producers, including the return of Brian Eno on the 1995 multimedia concept album, "Outside (The Nathan Adler Diaries: A Hyper-cycle)", Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails on "The Hearts Filthy Lesson" and the video singles and remixes for 1997's "Earthling", and regular Tin Machine collaborator and The Cure guitarist, Reeves Gabrels on the 1999 album, "Hours". More recently on this side of the millennial cusp, both "Heathen" and his penultimate album "The Next Day", acted as a preview of things to come on David Bowie's last and final turn at an artistic metamorphosis. This "rich, deep, and strange album that feels like Bowie moving restlessly forward, his eyes fixed ahead; the position from which he's always made his greatest music." was released as his ultimate swansong, "Blackstar" just two days before his death in 2016. So rich in fact, that it has been half a decade now in the minds of its listeners, that much of the meaning and its inspirations have yielded up, "The Final Mysteries of David Bowie’s Blackstar: Elvis, Crowley, and 'The Villa of Ormen'".