Moonage Daydream


Call him the Thin White Chameleon. As pioneering as the late, great David Bowie was as a multitalented artist who came of creative age during the initial wave of the rock era, what comes across most prominently in Moonage Daydream — a provocative documentary helmed by multi-hyphenate director/producer Brett Morgen — is his deeply philosophical nature as a man constantly questioning norms, pushing social mores and cultural boundaries, and seeking cosmic truths.

Patterning Daydream after the M.O. he utilized for the masterful 2012 Rolling Stones documentary Crossfire Hurricane, Morgen relies almost solely on Bowie’s well-selected voiceovers to provide the film’s narrative tract. By following this heady, individualist route rather than taking a more traditional, literal chrono-biographical trajectory, Morgen better reflects Bowie’s instinct-following artistic nature.

Visually, the 4K presentation keenly enhances period performance footage from the early and mid-1970s (a good bit of it previously unseen), especially when circular bladders of a crimson-hued spotlight follow the head and torso of Bowie as Ziggy Stardust prancing across the stage. Meanwhile, the contrast of his blotted, fluorescent-blue eyeshadow and matching suit plus a shock of reddish-orange spiky hair is starkly pronounced as he stands relatively inert amidst an all-white backdrop. Latter-era Bowie footage is even more crisp, as you’ll spot the subtle age lines emerging on his maturing face — and you should also be able to catch random wisps of smoke wafting from a stubby cigarette perched between the middle joints of two fingers whenever he’s shown wielding a paintbrush with unbridled fervor as he swishes it quite vigorously across a freeform, floor-wide canvas.

The Atmos soundtrack is smartly deployed, with recurring found sounds like helicopters, gunfire, and sirens often appearing in an all-aswirl manner to enhance Morgen-curated transitional imagery. (Some of those sounds, I suspect, were culled from the multitracks of Bowie’s synth-tastic 1980 No. 1 British hit, “Ashes to Ashes.”) It would be quite remiss of me not to mention the Bowie song that shares its name with this publication — “Sound and Vision” (as he spells it) — appears at the 64-minute mark.

Extras include a quite impassioned Morgen commentary track and an interview with the two rerecording mixers. Ground control to Moonage Daydream: This titillating doc is a testament to an artist who abhorred stasis and implored us to look toward the sky and reach beyond the confines of time and space — something Bowie did himself, right to the very end.

STUDIO: The Criterion Collection, 2022
ASPECT RATIO: 1.78:1 (original 1.85:1)
LENGTH: 134 mins., no rating
DIRECTOR: Brett Morgen
STARRING: David Bowie, Mick Ronson, Brian Eno, Dick Cavett, Iman