Photo: ‘Moonage Daydream’
To start this review I would like to preface that I typically absolutely despise musical biopics. From ‘Rocketman,’ to ‘Elvis,’ to the critically lauded ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ even, there are many musical biopics that I myself cannot stand to witness. The reasoning behind my hatred for this genre of filmmaking typically stems from the ingenuine feelings which I feel always arise from such works. While Taron Egerton, Austin Butler, and Rami Malek among others all certainly do a great job at portraying their respective icons, I cannot help but notice an air of something foreign lurking about these pictures. I find that whenever I watch one of these particular kinds of musical biopics I leave the theater feeling like I witnessed a masterclass in something, but that something is not a beautiful portrait of Elton John, Elvis, or Queen. In addition to this, I feel that in these sorts of projects there is always a hint of exploitation. Now, this is not me saying that most of the people behind these projects only care about using big names for big profits. But I feel that without a doubt there is always a certain impression of this big names for big profits idea in these works that at times feel like a Wikipedia page of a movie. But ‘Moonage Daydream’ is different.
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This film which was written, directed, and edited by Brett Morgen is one of the wildest things I have ever seen. Closer to something like the Talking Head’s ‘Stop Making Sense’ or Pink Floyd’s ‘Pink Floyd: The Wall,’ ‘Moonage Daydream’ is more than just a typical film, it is quintessentially a primal cinematic experience. There is no real narrative or story, just a bunch of images and videos being played while Bowie’s music blasts. The only real structure that the film has is that the writing seems to follow a linear path down the track of Bowie’s life and development as a creative force. However, this is the only real structure there is to film as the rest is just a mixed bag of clips, colors, music, and artistic philosophy. It should be noted that this mixed bag is without a doubt chaos at its finest and the driving force behind the power that this film possesses. It feels as if it almost lives up to Bowie himself, and that is something that is simply spectacular.
The mind behind Bowie
The strict use of archival footage and footage from other media, including films such as ‘Freaks,’ ‘Nosferatu,’ and ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,’ really works to Morgen’s better here with ‘Moonage Daydream.’ Where many other music biopics lose some of their luster and genuine spirit because of actors such as Rami Malek playing musical figures, ‘Moonage Daydream’ feels like complete and utter Bowie because the person in the film is really Bowie. There are no tricks or makeup to turn someone into something that they are not. Instead, what we get with ‘Moonage Daydream’ is pure Bowie because of Brett Morgen’s use of the footage that featured the real David Bowie. This gives ‘Moonage Daydream’ a sense of authenticity that most other musical biopics cannot dream to match.
‘Moonage Daydream’ feels like a real look inside the mind of David Bowie whereas other musical biopics feel like you are looking at a superstar from a shop window. This is the thing that elevates ‘Moonage Daydream’ to the level of incredible films like ‘Pink Floyd: The Wall’ and ‘Stop Making Sense.’ But on top of being similar to these other films, ‘Moonage Daydream’ feels like its own entity. This I believe is due to the film’s unique Bowie-esque philosophy which is embedded into the film itself. ‘Moonage Daydream’ preaches ideas about not wasting any time and always challenging yourself among many other more complex themes and ideologies that Bowie himself supported and lived by. All in all, with ‘Moonage Daydream’ you are getting a uniquely intimate experience where you get to see inside the living mind of one of the world’s most other-worldly entertainers and artists.
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While the film is certainly lengthy at a whopping 134 minutes of constant stimulation, I believe that overall the experience was more than pleasurable and was certainly worth the extra price I paid to see it in IMAX. It should be noted that this is how one should see this film as it was meant to be seen on the biggest screen possible with the best sound possible. There is never a dull moment during the film’s extended runtime and certainly no downtime either as there is constantly something new to wrap your mind around and contemplate. I believe that this is a film that could be seen and enjoyed countless times because of the sheer number of ideas being metaphorically thrown at the audience. Like I said before, the madness never ceases. But within that madness is a certain beauty that is nearly all but unseen in the realm of musical biopics today.
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‘Moonage Daydream’ as a whole
Altogether, I would recommend ‘Moonage Daydream’ not only to fans of David Bowie but also fans of avant-garde films as well. There is no doubt that this film is quite polarizing and people who are not fans of experimental film work may not find much enjoyment in ‘Moonage Daydream.’ However, once again, fans of a more unique film experience or people who are willing to give the avant-garde genre a chance will undoubtedly be more than pleased with ‘Moonage Daydream.’ This is because of the unique access that this film gives to the life and mindset of David Bowie. ‘Moonage Daydream’ is unlike most other musical biopics in that it has a certain unmatched authenticity through its strict use of archival footage and footage of other media. Brett Morgen certainly has made a real piece of art with ‘Moonage Daydream,’ and that is more than can be said about most films being released today. Give ‘Moonage Daydream’ a chance and see it in theaters where it was meant to be seen. I promise that you will not be disappointed by the creative and visual madness that is ‘Moonage Daydream.’
Also, be sure not to miss Olivia Wilde’s ‘Don’t Worry Darling,’ another avant-garde film from a very talented director.
Director: Brett Morgen
Writer: Brett Morgen
Producers: Brett Morgen, Bill Gerber, Aisha Cohen, and Michael Rapino
Cast: David Bowie
By Nathaniel Lee
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