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Monday, September 26, 2022

When and where to see the new unmissable David Bowie documentary?

When the documentary director Brett Morgan hit his eighth month on lockdown on an epic David Bowie project, he decided it was time to hit the road. With only a few hours notice, he left his home in Los Angeles one morning and flew to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where Bowie had filmed The man who fell to Earth (1976).

Morgen’s play on Bowie, Moonage Daydream, which can be seen in theaters only this Thursday (September 15) and in IMAX theaters (Thursday 15 and Sunday 18)is not presented as a traditional documentary, but as an immersive experience.

“Being in transit was an important theme in David’s life,” says Morgen. “He talked a lot about traveling by train in the West. And a lot of the songs he wrote happened during some of his travels around the United States.”

David Bowie, portrayed by Albert Watson in 1996.

David Bowie, portrayed by Albert Watson in 1996.

Morgen took out her notes; his phone, with all the White Duke’s records; and your copy of The hero with a thousand faces, by Joseph Campbell. “I was thinking about The Iliad“, he said, “and I started to see David’s journey. It’s not that different, but he created the storms for himself.” Suddenly, the script for his film, already three years in the making, began to flow.

That trip was one of the many ways Bowie, the rock icon who died in 2016, influenced Morgen, a documentarian known for showcasing big personalities who change the world. He did so in Kurt Cobain: Montage of Hell either The Kid Stays in the Pictureabout renowned Hollywood producer Robert Evans (co-directed with Nanette Burstein) and Janeabout Jane Goodall.

It’s equal parts psychedelic and philosophical: a corkscrew to Bowie’s character, carefully constructed, assembled entirely from archival and audio material, some of it rare and never released before. The effect is “a mind-blowing documentary with a killer subtext”as one reviewer wrote, after its premiere at the last Cannes Film Festival.

With Bowie’s OK

"Chameleon", "man with a thousand faces", his thing was constant change.

“Chameleon”, “man with a thousand faces”, his thing was constant change.

Although there were other documentaries and many books, this is the first project that had the full collaboration of the Bowie estate and full access to his voluminous archives. The songs were stripped down and rejuvenated for the soundtrack, with all the narration coming from Bowie himself.

But that level of intimacy posed a challenge for Morgen, writer, director and producer, who had to deal with a mountain of material and ended up as sole editor when the production ran out of money.

“I felt very sure that the line of David’s artistic life was chaos and fragmentationMorgen explained. He had heard those ideas over and over again in Bowie interviews since 1971, and finally decided to adopt them himself.

sensory overload

Tony Visconti, producer and Bowie collaborator A long-time source for the audio, he was impressed by the way the film made a kaleidoscope of visuals, narration, and music.

David Bowie and his first wife, Angela Barnett.

David Bowie and his first wife, Angela Barnett.

“There is a great technique in all this,” he commented via email. “And when seen and heard, especially in IMAX theaters, you get the most out of Bowie: sensory overload. David would be very impressed with this movie.”

What Morgen didn’t know was how much making the movie would change him, especially after suffer a debilitating heart attack, aged 47. He passed out and was in a coma for a week, he said in a telephone interview.

He came away with a mindset that made him focus on history and reorient his own life, as a married father of three children. Perversely, the impulsive Bowie helped Morgen, now 53 and a workaholic, find his balance.

And he needed it, when he was editing, all alone, during the first spike of COVID (his health scare made him extra cautious). “He was sitting alone in this building, making a film about an artist whose craft was isolation, and how to channel it creatively,” he said. “So I felt like I was systematically describing the world that I inhabited.”

Initially, he had visited Visconti in his New York studio. “We were in the room where she recorded David doing black star“, the album that Bowie published two days before his deathMorgan said.

“It was pretty intense.” Visconti played Cygnet Committee, a track from Bowie’s second album, stripping him of the vocals. The song, written when Bowie was about 22 years old, ends with a repeated lyric: “I want to live”. “David cried throughout the performance,” Morgen said.

Here, celebrating 50 years with his last partner, the model Iman.

Here, celebrating 50 years with his last partner, the model Iman.

five years

That kind of emotion – ravenous and vulnerable – set the tone for the film. It took five years to make Moonage Daydream. Morgan and her team it took more than a year to transfer hours of footage of concerts and performances, footage of Bowie’s paintings and other contents of his estate, along with additional material acquired by Morgen’s archivist, and some two years to see it all.

But the film is not complete. No interviews with anyone else, nor is it mentioned, for example, Iggy Popwith whom Bowie took refuge in Berlin during one of his most creatively fertile periods, or Nile Rodgers, who helped him reinvent his career as a pop artist in the ’80s.

No sex, no drugs

sexual greed and drug addiction, which often feature prominently in Bowie’s history, are only mentioned in montages and jumps in interviews. (“Do I need to explain? It seems a little cheeky to me,” Morgen said of one in which Bowie is sweating and grinning maniacally.)

The British photographer Mick Rock was his great friend.  And he showed some portraits in Buenos Aires.

The British photographer Mick Rock was his great friend. And he showed some portraits in Buenos Aires.

Although the film dives into his childhood and his family, he overlooks his personal life until his marriage to model and businesswoman Iman.

Bowie in quotes

“It was never conceived as a David Jones movie,” Morgen said, using Bowie’s real name. Every time Bowie appeared on screen, including interviews, it was a performative moment, Morgen added, and that’s what he wanted to capture. “It’s a movie about Bowie in quotes.”

He first approached Bowie about making a nonfiction hybrid film in 2007, when the artist was already wondering how to show his archives, but the timing and scope weren’t right, Morgen said. he was exploring a similar non-fiction idea with the remaining Beatles when Bowie diedand a call with Bowie’s old business manager, Bill Zysblat, resurrected the film.

“Bowie’s estate gave me unlimited access but not much guidance,” Morgen explained.

Another of the portraits of Mick Rock, who was very close to the musician.

Another of the portraits of Mick Rock, who was very close to the musician.

At one point, he wanted to discuss which direction to take. “Should we go further? Bohemian Rhapsody“, the 2018 Queen biopic, “and create a kind of populist chant?” he asked. “Or should we do it more in the spirit of Bowie, which can be a bit more adventurous?”

And they said, “Well, that’s your problem.” (She employed Paul Massey, who shared an Oscar for sound mixing on Bohemian Rhapsodywhich Morgen claims to have seen 14 or 15 times– for Moonage Daydream).

The estate, which is overseen by Zysblat, and which includes Bowie’s family –his widow, Iman; his daughter, Alexandria Zahra Jones; and his son from his first marriage, filmmaker Duncan Jones– refused to answer questions for this note, but support the movie.

Brett Morgen created a stunning testament to David’s lasting influence on the world“, they said in a statement delivered through a representative.

The heirs continue billing, selling Bowie’s song catalog to Warner Music for about $250 million this yearas his popularity (over a billion streams on Spotify) and his reputation as a cultural visionary – especially when it comes to technology and music – has only grown.

Bowie in his glam stage, accompanied by his partner, guitarist Mick Ronson.  Photo Mick Rock

Bowie in his glam stage, accompanied by his partner, guitarist Mick Ronson. Photo Mick Rock

For Morgen, one of the most telling points was the way Bowie carried himself in many interviews, often with people who clearly didn’t understand him; one, trying to find out how strange this genre artist was, asked him if he had had a teddy bear when he was a child. And yet “I never saw David speak with contempt, be disrespectful, short, annoying”Morgan said.

Perhaps it was a disarming tactic, but Morgen saw something deeper in it: the ability to seek connection and depth in any situation. It was a message that she tried to convey in the film. Bowie “tried to make every moment count,” she said. “It’s kind of a life-affirming roadmap for how to lead a fulfilling and fulfilling life.”

Source: The New York Times

Translation: Patricia Sar

CJL

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Reference from clarin www.clarin.com

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