Starting my writing off with quotes always felt generic. It’s like starting off a speech with a dictionary definition isn’t it? Why is that? Because that’s what I’ve always been told. Well fuck that. There’s been one quote that’s been with me since I was old enough to google the words “David Bowie”. So before we begin, this isn’t a review of Moonage Daydream like you’ll see on other sites. I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t put my feelings into something neat and clean about such a large influence on my life and a film that captures why I love David. So if you’re looking for a tidy review, I suggest clicking over to Google. If you want to read the messy first time I’m ever writing about my hero, strap in buttercup.
“If you feel safe in the area you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.”-David Bowie
I was dreading sitting down to watch Moonage Daydream. Not because I wasn’t excited to see what Brett Morgen had created but because I wasn’t sure I was ready. I wasn’t able to listen to Black Star without crying for a year after Bowie’s death. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as much sadness over a death than I did the day Bowie died. So since then, watching things dealing with his life meant a one way ticket to dehydration city.
But then it started, Moonage Daydream came screaming to life in full glory on the IMAX screen. I was surrounded by sounds and vision. Helicopters flying overhead, music enveloping the theatre, and all the while David Bowie’s voice was there to guide me through his evolution as an artist and as a person.
It wasn’t a retelling of his life or even really all the biographical, it was about the man known as a chameleon and the changes he went through. Those hours in the theatre brought the audience through each step of his evolution. Visions of the glory of color and space intersected so much footage of Bowie. Many believed he was an alien so all of the space aesthetics made sense. It all felt right.
Telling the story of David Bowie through the mundane steps of life just wouldn’t have felt right. Now exploring his art with a maximalist approach with all sorts of pop culture and music lining the walls of a glorious cinematic experience unlike anything I’ve ever seen? That’s right on the money.
Something the movie really delivers on is the universal truth that you either want to be David Bowie, you want to be with David Bowie, or you want both. David was an ethereal being unchained from the restrictions of norm for most of his life because he chose to be. Even during his poppiest years, we are shown that it was his choice and when he was bored of it, he went to explore something new and excited. Titles, labels, and genres washed off of him at a whim to make a heel turn into something brand new entirely. Just being one thing was never enough. There was always something new to explore. A new challenge to accept or a new artistic whim to explore even if that meant the sacrifice of different aspects of life for time.
Now typically, as a writer, I let you in on who I am myself. My strength is my heart on my sleeve about the things I love but I don’t think I want to give up that part of myself. My relationship to Bowie as a role model and hero is closely linked to some of the darkest moments of my life. Sometimes the character of Dan McMahon needs to be enough. Bowie is an artist who gave you as much of himself as you wanted to see. This is a part of me that’s for me. It’s why I’ve never written about Bowie and this will probably be the last time I do. That’s why this whole thing has no rhyme or reason. Because honestly it was hard to write and I wanted to be honest about that.
Writing this was more for me than anything. Maybe that’s why Brett Morten’s Moonage Daydream felt so personal. We create the things we want to see. I’m writing this because I wanted to get this onto digital paper. Go find an IMAX showing this movie and come talk to me about it. How it made you feel, who it made you want to be, and how you saw a human who didn’t accept labels of what people wanted him to be.