Moonage Daydream serves more as a beautiful tribute, that gracefully captures the very essence of who David Bowie was, or at least, who he was to the public.
It’s hard to describe Moonage Daydream. Yes, it is a documentary, but not in the traditional sense. There’s no overarching narrative. No main anchor point or person to guide you through the story. No interjecting comments from subject matter experts or bystanders to the overarching subject.
Instead, director Brett Morgen invites you on a ride through the mind of David Bowie himself, allowing Bowie to tell the story in his own words. It’s a whirlwind, that sometimes plays like the tunnel scene in Willy Wonka (and I mean that in the best possible sense). An expose of what Bowie wanted the world to see. It’s cosmic. It’s loud. It breaks boundaries of what one expects out of a music documentary. It is, in essence, David Bowie.
While Morgen is known for his innovative style of documentary storytelling, even within the music documentary genre (see: Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck), Moonage Daydream manages to extend beyond anything Morgen has done before. The editing in this film is a wonder in itself. A 2 hour and 15 minute long montage of various interviews, music performances, and backstage footage, focusing primarily on Bowie’s career throughout the 70s and 80s. The first half focusing on the rise to fame- the brilliance of the Ziggy Stardust era. The flashiness and camp that we expect out of Bowie. Live performances that send chills down your spine and give you the sense that you’re witnessing something of astronomic proportions. The second act then moves into the 80s era, where, despite commercial success, Bowie began to feel creatively frustrated.
And then, much like Bowie’s career, it leads up to Iman. In one of the most beautiful sequences ever put on screen (hyperbolic, maybe, but also not untrue), the shift of the film changes in a way that sends chills down your spine. This pinnacle of the movie feels like a gorgeous crescendo in a song. And suddenly, for a movie that does not really focus on Bowie’s personal life very much, a sense of intimacy is shared between the film and the audience. As if we all just climbed Mount Everest together, and have finally reached the summit. It’s difficult to describe just how gorgeous of a moment it is.
Then again, it’s hard to describe the actual film itself. It feels more like an immersive experience than a film, especially on IMAX (the best and only way to view it, in my opinion), and is more of a long (but cohesive) montage than it is narrative film. And yet, it manages to capture you from the start, and despite its long runtime, will leave you wanting more. While the film will certainly appeal more to David Bowie fans who are familiar with his music, the artistry of the film keeps it enjoyable for anyone. While making a documentary from the view point of an artist, especially posthumously, can be a bit of a dangerous game, Moonage Daydream serves more as a beautiful tribute, that gracefully captures the very essence of who David Bowie was, or at least, who he was to the public.
Likely: Best Documentary
Should be Considered: Best Film Editing
Release Date: September 22, 2022 (Wide Release)
Where to Watch: In Theaters
Lives in NC, where she is on a first name basis with the owners of her favorite pho spot.
Favorite Actress: Angela Bassett