Moonage Daydream

Moonage Daydream is as abstract in its presentation as one would expect when shaping a film around the late David Bowie.

Moonage Daydream had its UK premiere at Sheffield DocFest, though all words were written entirely by the writers at Cinamore.

Creating a documentary around David Bowie was never going to be an easy project for the director, writer, and editor Brett Morgen.

Culminating archive footage of the late rock musician, splicing them together to form a loose narrative reminiscent of Bowie’s iconic inability to define himself, Moonage Daydream translates Bowie’s developments into decades watching him grow, form, and adapt to his environment as it ages alongside him.

Though, as Brett discussed prior to the screening, with over 5 million assets of the performer available, it became challenging to compile them into a narrative thread, taking two years to screen and log before editing even took place making this a labour of love for the filmmaker.

This for me was the beginning of the film’s unravelling. What could have been a tightly told, albeit chaotic, retelling of Ziggy’s days, is instead a jumbled collage, jump-cutting between live performances, stylised colour sequences, and taking scenes from other films.

The way in which Fantasia, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Georges Méliès’ Le Voyage Dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon) all fit into the telling of Bowie still at the point of writing leaves me utterly perplexed.

Comparably, I can understand the relevance of both Nosferatu and Metropolis given Bowie’s involvement in depicting the Berlin division during the years of the Berlin Wall, influenced heavily by the Neo-expressionism movement, a contemporary derivative of the earlier 20th-century expressionist movement for which Nosferatu and Metropolis both take artistic influence, however, this link is strenuous at best.

To give credit, the live performing sequences had me tapping and singing along, with some creative stylised choices truly impressing me.

Plus, my experience of the film, with director Brett Morgen performing a live sound mix during the film given the unusual concert hall space for the screening made for a unique event, and to conduct a live edit for a UK premiere, whilst it was being screened takes guts to pull off.

Yet, as the film had no set structure, relying on the manipulation of pace and subverting expectations, it does struggle to maintain its momentum beyond the 90-minute mark, with bait and switch cut to blacks failing to impress.

Ultimately the overreliance on third-party material and numerous shots repeating themselves in the edit, as if chosen to bookend a chapter became uninspired by the fifth time I saw the shot of the lunar eclipse.

While I am of no doubt that Bowie fans of all varieties will adore this relatively true homage to the entertainer, its shelflife beyond a limited screening run I doubt will leave a lasting memory.

It is a shame that this is released in a time of oversaturation for musician-based movies in recent years as I suspect if this were released off the wave of Rocketman it would easily be an Academy contender.

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By Conor Riley

Conor is the Founder and Editor for Cinamore, a publication focused on giving power back to journalists. As a portmanteau of the word 'Cinema' and the Italian word for love 'Amore', Cinamore aims to highlight the love that we all carry for the art of the moving image.


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