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Moonage Daydream: brilliant Bowie film takes big risks to create something truly new

Hypnotic, immersive, kaleidoscopic, sublime: Brett Morgen’s film Moonage Daydream has been described as an “experiential cinematic odyssey” and a “colossal tidal wave of vibrant images and overpowering sound”. But as a Bowie fan of 40 years, this film was a transformative experience for me because of the integrity with which Morgen reassembled “the real thing” to make something authentic and new. Inspired by Bowie’s cautionary words about comfort and his philosophy to “always go further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in”, Morgen embarked on a mission that would take him far outside his comfort zone. Boldly eschewing the conventional biopic format, he immersed himself in a seven-year creative process – one that has led to a subjective but respectful representation of the artist who helped him navigate his own teenage journeys. Propelling the biographical music documentary form beyond the expected conventions of talking heads and expert analysis, Morgen combines a documentary style with music video aesthetics and surrealist assemblage methods to craft a new form. Employing an even more extensive collage approach than he’d used for his Kurt Cobain film Montage of Heck (2015), Morgen treats Moonage Daydream as an audiovisual tapestry, woven from numerous archival materials: songs, vocal recordings, still photographs and film footage derived from music videos, theatrical films, televised interviews and live performance. Morgen brings these things to life by punctuating them with sonic and visual effects. Bravely facing the potential wrath of Bowie devotees, he takes the creative liberty of disassembling and reanimating Bowie’s hand-drawn sketches, storyboards and paintings.
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