Review by Tatiana Miranda
If Patti Smith has her novel, Just Kids, and the Beatles have A Hard Day's Night, then David Bowie has Brett Morgen's latest documentary Moonage Daydream. While Bowie wasn't alive during the creation of this documentary, his pensive voice and imaginative perception are at the forefront. Consisting of archived interviews and live performances from various points during Bowie's career, Moonage Daydream is more of a creative interpretation of Bowie rather than a detailed account of his life.
Morgen's ode to Bowie's many personas and various exploits, whether in music or otherwise, comes from around five million pieces of archived material from the Bowie estate. With these previously unseen pieces of footage, Morgen spent years crafting the perfect rockumentary, one that gives voice to the star at hand yet also takes creative liberties that only the director can be thanked for.
While watching Moonage Daydream, it's not unlikely to see bouncing heads or the fingers of the audience tapping to the rhythm of some of Bowie's most iconic songs. This is precisely what Morgen intended, as he stated, before even beginning production, that he came up with a new genre called the "IMAX music experience," where the films are "anything but biographical, allowing the audience to have an experience with an artist." Morgen's own words are probably the best to describe what Moonage Daydream is, as it is not a typical documentary filled with talking head interviews and grainy footage but instead a collage of culture, color, and Bowie's enigmatic world.
Interspliced between several clips of cultural artifacts (such as popular movie scenes) and kaleidoscopic pops of colors seemingly dancing to the beat of Bowie's songs are the expected television interviews and grainy concert footage. Yet Morgen doesn't just leave these clips the way they were initially filmed. Instead, he overlays Bowie's live lyricism with videos of screaming fans at concerts during the height of his career. His carefully thought-out editing and audio mixing come together like one of Bowie's dance routines while on stage, meaning that everything has its purpose and correlates in a wild and inexplicable manner.
Moonage Daydream doesn't attempt to share anything new about the world-renowned musician. Instead, it honors his creativity and represents the role it has had and will likely continue to have in the cultural eye. As Morgen states, "it's Bowie in quotations." Moonage Daydream is a film displaying one perception of Bowie, which is the most that any director can ever do, as he was notoriously deliberate in the way he presented himself, routinely taking on different personas and consistently acting upon them.
Even though Moonage Daydream isn't necessarily a linear overview of Bowie's inspirations and creations, it is a cinematic experience that any creative—or even the everyday person—should experience. Beyond the captivating visuals and catchy tunes is the underlying message that life is short, but creativity lasts forever.
Moonage Daydream comes to theaters on IMAX September 16th.