I am so grateful for experiencing “Moonage Daydream” yesterday (Sept. 16) at a local iMax Theatre. It’s something I will never forget for many reasons. For one thing, it brought me out of a self-imposed exile; I can count on one hand the number of movies I’ve attended in the past 20 years, but was determined to not allow my fears and inadequacies to keep me from seeing this one. So, when matinee times were announced, I selected one that proved to be a great choice for someone like me who can’t tolerate crowded spaces, as there were fewer than a dozen people in attendance. Most importantly, it brought me a joyous, insanely intense sensory experience leading me closer to knowing and understanding the man who helped to shape and ultimately save my life over 40 years ago.
Let’s get the very minor concerns with the film out of the way. First, it ended (with the exception of references to Blackstar) in the 90s. The aughts were barely mentioned, if at all. The other concern is that to a casual fan, or someone learning about Bowie, the “The Man Who Fell To Earth” clips interspersed throughout the film could be very misleading. Without a point of reference, they could be misconstrued for actual clips of Bowie’s day-to-day life. His life was bizarre enough during that period without adding any more to it. But again, just very minor blips. Overall, it was absolutely sublime.
My expectations were simple: to spend 140 minutes with the man who helped show me the way through a world in which I felt alienated, and to fully absorb everything offered. Brett Morgen, the film’s creator, masterfully and poetically shares the essence of Bowie with us in an artistic and gorgeous manner. Morgen allows us to remember and experience Bowie in a personal way by providing us with visuals and music that help us along that special journey. We are free to recall and re-live in our own unique fashion.
If, on the other hand, you’re expecting a documentary in the true sense, don’t waste your time. Go back and re-watch “David Bowie: Finding Fame,” or “David Bowie: The Last Five Years” or any other number of films that surfaced shortly after his death. There, you can find numerous friends and musicians who self-congratulate on how important they were to Bowie and his music. Here, in “Moonage Daydream,” the focus is strictly on the man himself.
Prepare to be emotionally overwhelmed from the onset. Two minutes into the film, all it took was glimpses of Ziggy to get my tears flowing. I was both grateful and disappointed the theater was pretty much empty: Grateful, because I didn’t feel awkward crying or singing quietly along, and disappointed because I really want this film to be a blockbuster. There was so much to take in that this is definitely something to be viewed and embraced over and over again in order to absorb all the film has to offer.
Brett Morgen is a genius for being able to artfully cram in as much of Bowie’s 50-year career as he did within the time constraints he had. Let’s face it: commercially, a longer film would flop immediately in a society where people worship sound bites. I never once looked at my watch and was the only one who stayed until the credits ended (which I highly recommend), but it was easy for me because of how much I love and respect Bowie, and how much I enjoyed and appreciated Brett Morgen’s film.
In closing, I have to say I don’t quite understand those who claim to be disappointed in this unique and artistic visual statement. A question for the naysayers: What if you were given the chance to sit with Bowie face-to-face for 140 minutes while he talked about his life? Would you walk away dismayed and dissatisfied because he may have missed a story here and there due to time constraints? Would you complain to your friends that Bowie’s conversation was disjointed and underwhelming?
No, I didn’t think so.